Express / Objects of Desire

Objects of Desire

Today’s products, experiences and brands are cultural artifacts that give insight into our social, commercial and industrial lives. Here we decode shifts to understand what’s next. 

The Gucci Basket

With a brand value of $15,675m, Gucci has always led the pack with its influential, innovative, and progressive approach. It doesn’t get more innovative, influential or progressive than Demetra, as exemplified here by The Basket.

This new-to-market trainer, made with Gucci’s newly introduced luxury material Demetra, an animal-free material from sustainable, renewable and bio-based sources. This trainer represents a shift in luxury towards more ethical and sustainable practices within the fashion industry, reflecting the interests of youthful growth demographics who care about the planet..


In our 100th anniversary year, Demetra offers our industry an easily scalable, alternative choice and a more sustainable material that also answers the needs of animal-free solutions.” 

— Marco Bizzarri, President and CEO of Gucci

While the materials innovation is vital, both for the planet and for the subcultures of consumers who choose to express their green credentials through their purchases, there is also a more interesting change afoot (!).

At the heart of many of the observations we have made of the Express Arena is a shift from ‘Old Power’ to ‘New Power’.

Old power behaved as a currency – fiercely guarded, finite and fleeting. New Power, by contrast behaves like a current – it is fluid and open, participatory and peer driven.   

You could argue that luxury is predicated in power – with its familial ‘houses’ and notorious wealth. As the nature of power begins to change, does luxury need to change too? 

So in this sneaker we see that Gucci, one of the most prophetic powers in luxury has, in its 100th year, chosen to democratize its power by open-sourcing Demetra, and making it available to any company in the fashion industry as a new material source for good.

In this move, Gucci demonstrates to the world that it is, once ahead, one step ahead of the dynamics of tomorrow.

Gucci Basket, (courtesy of Gucci shop).

Erewhon grocery bag

Naeiri Zargerian, Express Arena Expert.

Seen as the mecca for healthy eaters, label readers and conscious spenders, Erewhon is a grocery store like no other. While living in Venice Beach in 2017, it was my go-to after long days at work when I felt like I needed to treat myself and replenish my body. Not only was everything organic, and nutrient-packed but tended to also be GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free, or vegan. The store is seen as the authority in curating the latest in super ingredients (like reishi mushrooms, manuka honey) and products (like Olipop and Coolhaus) which means you’re discovering and learning about new and evermore powerful alternatives while you shop.


Buying anything from there doesn’t ensure that it is healthy, it ensures that it is the healthiest version of that particular food found anywhere in the world (unless you’re making everything old school from scratch on a farm!).

Many articles have been recently written about this now buzzy grocery store in the past year. Some call it a parody or satire of Los Angeles health-obsessed culture, other’s roll their eyes at how scene-y it had become over the pandemic. But it is just another example of totem brands that outwardly signal, our internal values. In this case, spiritually minded, conscious eaters who find the best type of splurging is one that directly feeds the body you rely on everyday.

The wealthier, West side of LA has become the epicenter for this community and the brands that cater to them – think of Moon Juice, Goop and Butcher’s Daughter. These badge brands not only signal the economic capital needed to buy a $25 smoothie but also the moral or ethical capital that comes with supporting conscious brands that are good for you and the environment. Carrying a recycled paper Erewhon bag is modern luxury. Some say a new status symbol juxtaposed to carrying a Hermes bag. Consumers are signifying the tribe they belong to, and the thoughtful attitude they have towards their wealth which in some circles carries more weight than the iconic ostrich leather Birkin itself.

Erewhon grocery bag, (courtesy of Erewhon shop).

Everydays: The First 5000 Days

Karl Hermanns, Global Managing Director, classic art group, Christie’s.

This piece of art by US artist Beeple is the first NFT to be sold by a major auction house. Not only is it the first, its sale was also the third-highest price for a living artist at auction, shaking the art world to its core.

Hermanns said: “This sale represents total disruption of the established art world by the new crypto world. Status is now hugely fragmented, with plenty of micro tribes that exist. The traditional art world is completely mystified by the recent introduction of NFTs (which in less than 12 months has seen Christie’s book $100M of sales).”


According to the Financial Times: “For some, NFTs represent nothing more than a speculative bubble, part of a wider concern around get-rich-quick schemes linked to crypto markets. For others, it is a historic challenge to the gatekeepers who have traditionally determined the monetary and cultural value of art, leaving collectors, museums and auction houses guessing whether NFTs will ultimately generate a new market for digital art among younger buyers.”

It is worth noting that bidders under the age of 40 accounted for 64 per cent of offers for the Beeple NFT.

Beeple (b. 1981), EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS, (courtesy of Christie’s).

The Galapagos Islands

Jane Reeve, Chief Communications Officer, Ferrari.

The islands are an object, but they also an incredible experience. Experiences are perhaps better representative of desirability these days as they are truly unique. Involving all of the senses, no one person has exactly the same reaction or experience. Experiences are perhaps more memorable, deeper and long lasting than empathy with a simple object.


The islands have created unique animals and fauna which continue to flourish thanks to an assiduous control.  Having no natural predators the native animals are defenseless against potential predators such as cats, dogs, cattle etc. which are kept out of the ecosystem.

Our luxury is the fact that we, humans, are able to visit (under strict numbers control) and to share in this extraordinary environment where animals of all sorts do not move an inch if you go towards them. They have no reason to mistrust. They live in a world that does not require protection from threat. Is this what Utopia would look like?

The iPhone

Gillian Tett, Author of Anthro-Vision and Editor-at-Large

“The “Me Culture” of the 20th Century has given birth to the cult of total customization. The individual stands at the center of the universe and can now choose to craft the world to their tastes. You see that in music with the rise of playlists, in fashion, in politics and more.

So the cultural artifact that best represents ‘us’ is Apple’s iPhone. It will become the ‘tool’ that represents our era in the way that flint represented the Stone Age.

Apple is a flag of modernity. Its ubiquity speaks to all that we are and aspire to be – globalized, connected, technologically advanced. Apple signifies all these facets of the modern condition and puts us at the centre of our universe. It’s at the heart of expression, both in what it manifests and in what it enables. It’s a way for the individual to say “I’m connected” – literally but also conceptually.”


Editors Note: Apple is the worlds’ Best Global Brand with a brand value of $322,999m. It has had a profound impact on the human experience with the iPhone, a tool through which we have reshaped social structures, gained unfettered access to information and customized our experience of the world. Apple has consistently changed what was in people’s minds by changing what was in their hands.

Alicia Steels, Louvre Museum, Paris, France, (courtesy of Unsplash).

Garter, Loza Maléombho

Consumer, USA

During the promotion of her Disney remake of The Lion King, Black is King, Beyoncé said she made the movie to “shift the axis of the world and tell [Black People’s] real history – of generational wealth and richness of soul that are not told in our history books.”


To that end, the most compelling and visible characters in the movie are Beyonce’s costumes, which are exquisite contemporary interpretations of African traditions by established luxury brands, including Erdem, Burberry and Valentino, and emerging designers. The costumes unapologetically and eloquently reclaim African identity as rich, storied and – above all – relevant to a new generation of American consumers.

This garter, worn by Beyonce in the movie, was designed by Loza Maléombho, a designer who was born in Brazil and raised between Côte d’Ivoire and the United States. Loza’s work connects traditional African aesthetics and contemporary fashion – rooted in history yet somehow futuristic. In many ways Loza’s work embodies the condition of America’s youthful minorities (who, incidentally, are the future of engine of brand growth in America) – looking to connect with their heritage in ways that are relevant to their modern lives.

“As a first-generation American, I grew up in a Latin and Caribbean household. My identity was trying to figure out how to balance these stories, and who I was because of them. What I’ve come to realize (thanks to the support of my generation) is to embrace where I come from, but don’t let it stop me from becoming who I am. To hold onto my culture and heritage, while also adding a little “razzle dazzle”. I am part of this new wave of my generation with hopes of creating a better, more inclusive future like those that came before us.” — Antionette, 25, USA, Marketing Professional.

Garter, Loza Maléombho, (courtesy of Black Owned Everything™ Instagram profile).

The Birkin Bag, Vestiaire Collective

Lidi Grimaldi, Express Arena Expert

Hermès handbags have always held their value as investment pieces and, true to form, in 2020 the Birkin Bag was the most in-demand item on resale platform Vestiaire Collective.


Post-pandemic, the circular economy is set to accelerate disruption in express – as sustainability becomes a priority for consumers, especially among Gen Z where platforms like Depop sit at the confluence of social influence, social currency and the resale revolution.  Depop has also begun to define the style of this generation too.

After a year of essentialism, value is being re-evaluated. The ThredUp 2021 Resale Report, suggests that 1 in 3 consumers care more about wearing sustainable apparel than before the pandemic and saving money on clothes is now the top priority.

And all of this means that the second-hand market is projected to double in the next five years, reaching $77bn and, inevitably, resale is emerging as a growth opportunity within the omni-channel mix for retail. Indeed, according to ThredUp, 60% of retailers have or are open to offering second hand to their customers.

With leading brands including Mulberry and Isabel Marant among the first to make moves into resale, brands now have to consider the “second lives” of their products in their story too, to engage consumers, and drive commercial advantage.

The Birkin Bag, (courtesy of Vestiaire Collective).

Ande Dem Sneakers

Consumer, Spain

Migrant street-sellers in Barcelona have unionized to form a fashion label that is producing limited edition sneakers priced to compete with Nike, using the tag line: “It’s not about just doing it, but about doing it right.”


Designed by the streetsellers, or manteros, themselves, in collaboration with an architechts and graphic designers, these limited edition “solidarity sneakers” will be priced at 115 euros each and are aimed at Gen Z consumers with an ethical mindset.

As workers’ rights, pay and conditions – and unionization – become growing topics of conversation across the world, brands can no longer operate in an ecosystem where any part of the value chain is being systematically disenfranchised.

Sneakers Ande Dem, (courtesy of Popular Cooperative of Street Vendors of Barcelona, SCCL / Top Manta shop).

McDonalds BTS Collaboration

Consumer, Korea

A move into express has driven staggering results for McDonalds.

Through a partnership with Korean K-Pop band BTS (who it is reported contribute a total of $3.6 billion to the South Korean economy), McDonald’s sold over 1.2million sets and saw sales of McNuggets to skyrocket, with the daily average increasing by 250 per cent – over a one-month timeframe. Restaurant visits were up 12% over the previous week during the first seven days of the promotion.


But those who are familiar with the power of K-Pop fans won’t be surprised by this success.

BTS fans call themselves the ARMY, which stands for “Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth”. Between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020 there were 18 million unique authors mentioning BTS online. The ARMY has successfully changed laws relating to military service; they have interfered in Trump rallies; they have mobilized support for Black Lives Matter, and driven millions of dollars of donations to good causes.

These are not highly coordinated political or philanthropic activists. These are pop fans with the power and the motivation to change the world for the better.

BTS X McDonald’s Collaboration Merch, Melting Collection, (courtesy of Weverse shop).

Harvard logo

Lidi Grimaldi, Express Arena Expert.


“Who doesn’t want to be able to say they studied at Harvard, or MIT? If you had the discretionary spend, and the time, where would you invest it? In the context of a Hundred Year Life, in which careers last longer and longer. These brands have extraordinary desirability and relevance.”

Peleton Bike

Consumer, USA

More than perhaps any other brand, Peleton has converted community into commercial success.

With a subscriber base that’s larger than the population of some countries, this pack is growing at a rapid clip – up 113% from a year earlier, and roughly 3.1 million members in total. This community engagement is having an impact on the balance sheet, shares are up more than 365% from a year ago and the company has a market cap of $46 billion.


CEO John Foley said the fitness company is aiming to have 100 million paying subscribers.

“100 million subscribers, we believe is a reasonable goal,” Foley said Tuesday during Peloton’s first investor meeting as a public company, which was held virtually. “There’s close to 200 million gym-goers in the world. That’s 200 million people paying hard money, month after month, to access what we believe to be inferior fitness equipment in an inferior location.”

Its not just the numbers that are looking healthier, Peloton’s users are working out more, too. It said its connected fitness subscribers are averaging 24.7 workouts per month, up from 12 a year earlier. This is due in part to the company extending into other workouts, like yoga and stretching.

According to NYT becoming a member of the Peloton pack is an investment: roughly $2,500 for the first year and nearly $500 each year thereafter. And that’s for the base model – Once you purchase the Bike itself, you need to keep paying a $39 monthly subscription fee, or you’re left with just three classes and a free-ride mode that displays only real-time data on the screen.

Peleton Bike, (courtesy of Peleton).

Sunset on the Seiser Alm

Manfredi Ricca, Global Chief Strategy Officer,

One of the first things you learn about Seiser Alm – or Alpe di Siusi, as it’s known in Italian – is that it’s the largest Alpine plateau. But stats and geography have nothing to do with my choice. Quite simply, Seiser Alm is a place of staggering beauty and significance.


Seiser Alm is a jewel set in the Italian Dolomites – a natural garden surrounded by the majesty of awe-inspiring peaks. Here, man has cherished the beauty and bounty of nature, finding a rare equilibrium. Here, diverse cultures from different sides of the Alps have coexisted together, becoming one. Here, the simplicity of mountain life meets the culture of exceptional craft, food and winemaking. Here, every season offers something extraordinary. Here, silence is never lonely, and companionship never noisy. Here, one contemplates or hikes, rests or climbs.

At sunset the towering dolomitic heights go ablaze, reflecting changing shades of red that be seen nowhere else in the world. As the colour transforms, as day turns to dusk, I feel a unique sense of connection, inspiration and reverance.

The words of the late Oliver Sacks come to mind: “Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”

Burning Man

The famous festival, which is famously difficult to access.

Its exclusivity and high barriers to entry drive a halo of desire and but it’s democratized tolerance of radical self-expression drives deep, committed loyalty. 80,000 people per year has been coming in the middle of the Nevada desert from every corner of the world for the last 30 years or so to create, share and have fun. The famous sculptures are intended to be agents for social change, challenging the viewer to see the world differently.

Out of This World

Astronauts exclaim that the multifaceted, transformative experience of seeing Earth and the blue line of our atmosphere from space is stunningly beautiful, deeply compelling, and profoundly moving.

Spaceship Neptune is attempting to open up space travel, offering customers the same astonishing opportunity as astronauts: to gaze out at the cosmos and down to earth, experiencing the wonder-filled expansion of human consciousness.

With raging debates about billionaires’ missions into space, at huge cost to the climate, Space Perspective offers a gentler, more environmentally friendly route out of this world, which at $125,000 is also more attainable than ever before.