The Future Is Boutique

Sam Wearne
Feb, 2022
If you’re looking for wild and reckless predictions based on “I reckons”, “gut feels”, and personal experiences dressed as social norms, then you’ve come to the right place.

We thought we’d kick off the new year with optimism by sharing what we see as a growing trend in business: the rise of the Global Boutique.

A social imaginary for business that can (actually) change the world.

Why are we talking about this thing we call a Global Boutique? Because we think the ways to grow a business are being redefined by the power of social media paired with a popular search for meaning. Increasing numbers of people are re-evaluating what really matters and who they want to be. This army of hopefuls are looking for brands with soul that give them the chance to stand for more than mass-consumption-capitalism. They’re sick of cultural colonisation, environmental degradation and a myopic focus on the short-term.

One thread of a broader trend.

It’s pretty clear that people want business to do better than we’ve seen over the last couple of centuries. Lots of people. By 2022, you’d probably heard about Conscious Consumers and Stakeholder Capitalism. We don’t hear so much about how this general turn toward sustainability is playing out for the people who start businesses, and how they want to grow them. We feel there is a new chapter emerging that sees aspiring business owners bypass the Tech-Bro vibe of ‘start-ups’ and draw their inspiration from the small business ethos of care, craft and soul. Through this repositioning, what we call the Global Boutique is emerging; a business that feels like a small business but can reach a huge global following through the powers of the interwebs.

For design, brand, and the planet, we think it’s great news. Why? Because it puts the focus on doing things well, not growing fast and faking it.

In the spirit of holiday convos, here are our wild predictions and half-baked provocations about Global Boutiques and the what the future might hold.

COVID is and was an amplifier for Millennial side-hustles and consumers who want boutique goods.

To be clear, COVID was horrendous. Hopefully we can glean something positive from the wreckage. One such opportunity comes from us experiencing (at least one) ‘disorienting dilemma’; transformative events that cause us step back, objectively look at ourselves, and become more active in pursuing the lives we want. You can’t un-cook those noodles, even if they take a while to fully slurp. The second small concession feels less relevant, but we think it’s related; the lockdowns made many of us value the small things. We spent time and money to add comfort to our homes, we noticed our neighbours more, we appreciated the places we reside in, and maybe we even sought ways to live a little more slowly and responsibly. In short, we think COVID has sparked changes that will continue to steer us from within.

Depending on when you ask, we’re not alone in this observation. When COVID was raging and lockdowns were in vogue, we were told there’s a Great Resignation coming. Then we were told it isn’t coming. Now we’re told it is coming again. The suspense is like waltzing up to Alex ‘n’ Rolls craving the world’s best Bahn Mi but we’re happy to claim that some smart people think that COVID will fuel the young-persons’ penchant for a boutique business hustle. Insanely expensive house prices may also be a motivating factor.

A purposeful global economy makes for a better system.

“Oh yeah sure”, said the mythical economist sauntering past our website, “your Global Boutiques sound like a call for a cottage industry, mate. Cottage industries don’t work”.

“Okay”, we answer, confident they don’t exist and very few people are listening, “but maybe this isn’t a cottage industry”.

“Maybe”, we insist, “this is what globalisation would look like if commerce valued our differences. Maybe this focus on quality and authenticity is a way to have growth that’s decoupled from destroying the planet and creating global monocultures. Maybe it’s a trend to help successful small businesses find large audiences with sticks and carrots that make them stay true to their values, keep a strong soul and personality, and grow whilst doing it”.

The mythical economist was stunned. We aren’t completely sure what we just said, or if it makes sense.

To ground this, take heed of the brands around you. For us this is brands like The Grifter, Poor Toms, and Archie Rose. We look at our clients like ADJOAA, EveryHuman, NewFish, Donut Papi, and Boyan. We think of stories like the peeps at Canva. Regardless of their stage or size, they think big but value craft. They have the soul, freedom and sincerity of a small shop but they’re set to reach much further. Why?

1. The internet.

2. Great branding.

3. Great products.

4. Owners that love what they do and see the possibilities.

Love what you do and flex who you are. Surely that is a recipe for a better economy.

A closer hill and a brighter shine. Global Boutiques have an appeal that corporates and shaky start-ups often lack; integrity.

Around the world, large corporates are searching for meaning. They know that to attract talent and customers, people want to see that you stand for something. Start-ups were the cooler cousins in business who for a while have ran with the moto of growing fast and breaking things. Both of these incumbents are faced with increasing stories of toxic cultures, damaged trust, and questionable ethics. When we compare them to Global Boutiques, they incumbents are up against small, fast-growing businesses that have built it the attitude, promise and track record of a responsible approach to business from the get-go.

We’re backing the new model.

Predictions come cheap and ours comes for free. Whatever the future brings we reckon that Global Boutiques are a recalibration to business and they’re here to steal the show. Growing a Global Boutique requires a different mindset and it requires building brands and products that are great from the outset. We can’t wait to get cracking in 2022 to support the people that are taking this path and we hope that most readers feel the same.

Happy New Year ya filthy animals.

Studio Chenchen.

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We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land where we live and work, the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation, and we pay our respect to their Elders, past and present.