Highlight on brands, businesses, and people innovating for change - and a better future.
In the fourth longlist of the 2023 Futures 100 Innovators, The Future Laboratory's chosen innovators and changemakers are set to disrupt the lifestyle categories in 2023 and beyond.
Beauty: Kristin Cardwell and Alex Beyer | Personalized beauty regimes in one place
Kristin Cardwell and Alex Beyer are on a mission to build a hyper-personalized Farfetch of beauty. They co-founded Sourcerie, an eCommerce platform encouraging consumers to shop for beauty products based on community-driven data and reviews. The former L'Oréal and Palantir executives built Sourcerie after suffering from eczema for the first time and feeling overwhelmed by treatment advice. "The best recommendations, and the ones that actually worked, always came from people just like us," they told LS:N Global. "We wondered - can't we find a way to scale this?" Sourcerie has big ambitions and aims to be the place brands and retailers visit to connect with beauty consumers seamlessly. "We're not just a personalized marketplace. Our vision is to become the global tech platform for every beauty and personal care decision."
Health & Wellness: Aakanksha Gulati | Advancing vaginal health research
As part of her postdoctoral research at Harvard's Wyss Institute, Boston-based Aakanksha Gulati co-created the world's first "vagina on a chip," an inch-long polymer rectangle mimicking the human vaginal tissue environment, including its communities of microbes. Gulati is currently using the innovation to investigate bacterial vaginosis (BV), a disease that afflicts nearly 30% of reproductive-aged women around the globe. "A major stumbling block for that effort was that there were no good preclinical models that could be used to study which therapies can actually treat BV in human tissues," she said. Her team hopes others will use the chip routinely to advance vaginal research. Introducing a new tool in a medical area that remains chronically under-researched and misunderstood is a significant leap forward.
Fashion: Yumi Nu | Fun fashion staples from XXS to 6X
26-year-old Yumi Nu has made history once already. In 2021, she was the first Asian-American plus-size woman featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. She may do it again with Blueki, the energetic size-inclusive clothing line she created out of frustration. Nu has been modeling for 13 years and has always faced limited high-quality clothing options. According to the model, Blueki's locally=made pieces fill gaps in any plus-size consumer's wardrobe, starting with hers.
The first drop in 2022 included second-skin cut-out dresses, lace-up corsets, and coquettish minis, all available in sizes XXS to 6X. Created in collaboration with sustainability-focused 3D knitwear factory Tailored Industry in Brooklyn, the drop aimed to "mimize excess waste" with small batches and made-to-order requests. Nu wants to explore looser-fitting textiles and limited edition items, including slip dresses and cargo pants in upcoming drops. "I do understand that the plus-size customer is tired of only stretch pieces," she told Vogue.
Blueki's raison d'être is not only to be fun and bold but also to serve consumers that the fashion industry rudely and routinely excludes.
Retail: Haniff Brown | AR-fueled fitting rooms
When the women in Haniff Brown's life found that their online purchases didn't fit IRL, they tasked him with boxing up and returning the goods. The frustration with this endless back-and-forth process inspired the first-generation Jamaican immigrant investment banker to collaborate with data scientist Jie Pei to launch an AR-powered clothing platform. Founded in 2018, FIT:MATCH aims to make the fitting room experience more accurate and comfortable for online and offline consumers. The technology takes a 20-second 3D scan of the shopper's body with 93% accuracy before matching it to a database of digital twins to recommend the best-fitting items. Available in select Macy's and Savage X Fenty stores in the US, consumers can soon access FIT:MATCH through its app. Brown's team aims to offer consumers a more relaxed and intuitive fitting room experience while creating new beginnings and boosting sales for retailers. "Our challenge is innovating a product, a consumer behavior, and a business model all at once," said Brown.
Food & Drink: Aliza Abarbanel and Tanya Bush | Let them read cake
Baker Tanya Bush and food writer Aliza Abarbanel met over Instagram in 2021 and bonded over their desire to create thought-provoking food media. In spring 2022, they launched the first issue of Cake Zine, their independent magazine that uses sweets to explore and challenge societal norms. Titles Sexy Cake, the issue delved into erotic bakeries. "Our themes are niche but expansive," they say. Its second volume, released in autumn 2022 and cheekily named Wicked Cake, explored the history of arsenic and evaluated the risks AI could pose to the baking community and industry. The upcoming Humble Pie issue, scheduled for spring 2023, will be a tangible and symbolic exploration of pie-making and humility. Bush and Abarbanel serve a much-needed slice of subversion to the food media landscape. The duo also sees Cake Zine as the anchor point for larger enterprises. "We are very interested in making the magazine a social object," they told LS:N Global. "A community for people interested in using food as the impetus for broader cultural exploration."
Luxury: Romain Boubert and Géraldine Saquy | Low-carbon leather goods
Maison Maes is a Paris-based accessories brand on a mission to make the luxury leather industry more eco-friendly. Founded in 2020 by former engineer Romain Boubert and Géraldine Saquy, the brand aims to "finally bring bags and small leather goods into the 21st century and challenge the luxury status quo."
By combining legacy French craftsmanship with innovative leather textiles, Maison Maes self-defines as the world's first low-carbon haute maroquinerie retailer. Recipient of the Butterfly Mark (which recognizes ambitious investments in environmental, social and governance), the brand refuses to use any materials traditionally found in leather goods manufacturing. Maison Maes made its first collection of handbags with Desserto's patented vegan cactus leather, which consumers nine times less energy and emits nearly 20 times fewer greenhouse gases than animal leather. Boubert and Saquy want to continue exploring bio-based materials and are determined to show the fashion industry and consumers alike that leather goods can be equally luxurious and sustainable.
Travel & Hospitality: Luca Pronzato | Purposeful culinary pop-ups
After completing his master's degree in wine at Sup'Agro in Montpellier, France, Luca Pronzato visited 30 countries in under a year. Inspired by the cultures he'd observed and the cuisines he enjoyed, Pronzato returned home to Paris and founded We Are Ona, a community of food creatives dedicated to creating temporary culturally inclusive experiences. "We want to turn food talents into creative directors, similarly to couturiers in the fashion industry," the We Are Ona team told LS:N Global. Ona means wave in Catalan and is reminiscent of the company's nomadic collective sweep into different cities each year, opening fully operational pop-up restaurants. Pronzato created ephemeral dining experiences at an old stable in the French town of Arles, on the rooftops of a 19th-century townhouse in Mexico City and at the Venice Biennale. In the future, We Are Ona aims to be known as a hub that nurtures all types of creatives connected with the food industry, "from food workers to artist, ceramists, florists, and designers," empowering them to deliver unique and culturally rich food experiences.
Design: Nubianizm | Digital Black art pioneer
Nubianizm, aka Rica, is a 27-year-old medical prosthetist and fine pencil artist specializing in hyper realistic portraits celebrating Black people. The Londoner's stunning work has gone viral online a few times, starting with her vibrant portrait of actress Viola Davis in 2018. Then a finger prosthetic she helped design for a Black patient as part of a collaboration with London Prosthetics silicone clinic attracted over 1.1.m views on Twitter in February 2023. After learning the inner workings of NFTs, decentralization, the blockchain, and Ethereum from her Black peers in the art and web development communities, Rica entered the world of Web3 in 2022. There, she created a community of Black art enthusiasts and first-time buyers. Some of her recent work includes a Black Renaissance series, exploring 17th and 18th-century art from a Black perspective. "It's good building ground," she told LS:N Global. "It's allowed a lot more opportunities than [marginalized] people would be able to get IRL."
Media & Tech: Rachele Didero | Textile trickery against facial recognition
While pursuing a research doctorate at Milan Polytechnic, Rachele Didero, co-founder of fashion-tech startup Cap_able, patented a groundbreaking fabric combining fashion and computer science. Woven with adversarial patches, her line of made-in-Italy knitted garments protects a wearer's facial biometric data without covering their face. The technology also confuses AI computers into wrongly categorizing the wearer as a dog, zebra, or giraffe. Didero told LS:N Global: "For me, this is a mission and an all-around passion."
She created the collection to raise awareness of the improper use of facial recognition technology and warn of the potential dangers of unchecked tech advancements. She aims to stay one step ahead of the increasingly fast-paced tech-fueled world. "When I'm in front of a camera, I don't have a choice of whether I give it my data or not," she said. "We're creating [safety] garments that allow you to choose."
Youth: Kel Rakowski | Digital mingling for IRL community building
Old-school personal ads in the back of women-run erotica magazine On Our Backs somehow gave birth to Queer dating app Lex. "Those personals were hot, witty, and cool. The women knew exactly who they were and what they wanted," the app's founder and CEO Kel Rakowski told LS:N Global, live from NYC. The ultra-minimalist text-based app has recently repositioned itself as a social platform allowing both platonic and romantic connections. Though its redesign now supports emojis and has made profile pictures bigger, its retro vibe remains. The company still sees itself as a unique space for queer womxn to express themselves and bond with their peers. Freed from likes, reactions, or follower counts, the app encourages users to congregate in niche groups based on their interests, such as Bird Watchers of Central Park, Mushroom Foragers of LA, and Chinatown Basketball Crew, among others. Rakowski wants the app to turn online connections into IRL communities. "We're building Lex to find real, authentic, and slow connections."