Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

Pop-up retail is a concept we’ve been covering for years, generally focusing on a store that opens for a limited time in an otherwise unused space. Turning that notion on its head, in some respects, is Planeshop, a permanent store opening soon in the Glasgow Airport that will be periodically taken over by a different brand. The brainchild of the founder of Vacant —which was probably the first pop-up store way back when—Planeshop is billed as a permanent shop with a flexible retailing concept. Brands will take over the store for a limited time, including changing the shop’s exterior graphics to match their identity. Currently, consumers are invited to vote for the brands they’d most like to see in that role. No word yet on how long each brand will stay in place, but once that time is up, another brand will move in and take over, ensuring that there’s always something new to see in the store. Also available at Planeshop will be Planemix, a downloadable selection of global digital music tracks that rotates each month, and “Foodflight,” a selection of tapas and sangria for takeout or in-store dining. Planeshop’s flexible retail concept is patent-pending, the company says, and it seems safe to assume that brands are currently lining up for a spot in the store’s rotating roster. One to watch—or get in on early yourself…? (Related: Retail space helps brands collaborateStore perpetually reopens.) Much like socks, gloves have the tendency to lose their other halves. In the spirit of ‘waste not, want not’, environmental group Green Thing has launched a venture that pairs up single gloves and sells them to new owners. Matched by size but not colour, Glove Love offers unique pairs for GBP 5. Single gloves are washed, repaired and (re)paired by Green Thing, which also adds recycled labels, nametags and letters of introduction. Last winter’s strays were harvested from lost and found boxes through donations from The Natural History Museum, Transport For London and other organisations, and Green Thing is asking people to send in unpartnered gloves to keep its online store stocked. Profits go to Green Thing Trust, which is a registered charity. As Green Thing points out, each sale keeps single gloves out of landfills and avoids manufacturing a new pair. It’s a fun and practical approach to sustainability, and one that Green Thing hopes will be copied by people in other parts of the world. Not just for gloves, but for “all sorts of single things that can be put together in new, creative and aesthetic ways”. Get cracking before temperatures drop! (Related: Doing the green thingLeather jackets remade into designer bags.) From an online store that specialises in personalised gifts comes a literary appeal to anyone’s vanity. GettingPersonal sells classic novels—mostly as gifts—that let recipients and their friends star as the main characters. Taking a concept we’ve already seen applied to travel guides and stories for younger children, the company has chosen a range of books with lasting appeal (and without pesky copyright issues). For the romantics there’s Pride and Prejudice and Romeo and Juliet; adventure-seekers get Robin Hood and The Hound of the Baskervilles; those after something more sinister can take their pick from Frankenstein and Dracula, while Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz provide a healthy dose of fantasy. Gift packs cost GBP 19.95 and include the chosen novel’s cast list, which gives a brief rundown of each of the five main characters. Customers decide who they would like to put in each role and submit the information online or by post. Within 28 days, the personalised classic is delivered, featuring the name of the main character on the cover and the revised names of all the main characters throughout the book. Otherwise, the story remains the same. There’s no doubt that consumers enjoy seeing their name in print—one to adapt for popular classics in other languages? Spotted by: John Smith There are countless brands of jeans in the world, most of them actually *made* all over the world, with components sourced from multiple countries and manufacturing done in others. Aiming to present an alternative at the polar opposite on that scale is Raleigh Denim, a North Carolina company whose jeans are reportedly 98 percent local. Run by a husband-and-wife team, Raleigh Denim uses nearly all local materials, with everything from thread to denim produced within 200 miles of its workshop. Its distinctive selvage denim, for instance, comes from Cone Mills’ White Oak plant, a 100-year-old local mill that weaves the fabric on the only original shuttle looms still working in the US today. All of Raleigh Denim’s design, pattern-making, cutting, sewing, washing and finishing, meanwhile, are carried out by hand in the company’s Raleigh workshop. No automated equipment is ever involved; rather, the couple prefers to incorporate traditional construction methods and vintage sewing machines. Every pair of Raleigh Denim jeans is handcrafted and signed by its maker, with unique touches such as an x-ray of the hip joint printed on the inside pocket. Priced from roughly USD 215 to USD 285, Raleigh Denim jeans are now carried in major retail stores across the US, including Barneys New York and Steven Alan, and have reportedly developed quite a following. Which just goes to show, once again, that even in tough economic times, a heaping helping of (still) made here appeal can help virtually any medicine—that is, price—go down. Time to bring Raleigh Denim to your neck of the woods—or, better yet, create a local version of your own…? (Related: For the first time, jeans to be made in North KoreaLuxury jeans tinted a long dormant blue.) Spotted by: Cecilia Biemann Does teaching children to drive make them better drivers as adults? Mercedes-Benz thinks so. This summer saw the launch of its Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy in the UK, which teaches anyone over 10 years and 1.5 metres tall the basics of manoeuvring a car. With packages tailored to different age groups, the Academy aims to show young people the ins and outs of driving, rather than the minimum needed to pass a test. Children aged 10–14 are taught the basics of road safety and car handling, taking an A Class out for a half-hour spin for GBP 40. The ‘Pre-Road Sessions’, meanwhile, are targeted at 15–17 year-olds and delve a little deeper into the theory of driving, the traffic code and dealing with emergency situations. Prices start at GBP 75 for a one-hour track session. A 3-hour, GBP 205 ‘Parent-Partner Package’ is designed to improve parents’ confidence and patience when teaching their child how to drive, no matter how hair raising the experience may be. Last but not least, those over 17 are also catered for: there’s a full driving test package available to assist with passing the theory and practical test. Mercedes-Benz isn’t alone in offering a service like this: we spotted BMW and Audi offering driving lessons a while back as part of the status skills trend. However, the Mercedes scheme adds a clever twist by engaging kids with its aspirational brand. With a bit of luck, they’ll lust after MB cars throughout their teens and twenties, purchasing one when they can afford to do so. Or else cajole their parents into buying so they can happily travel in a Merc back seat. Spotted by: David Licona It’s no secret that satisfying a craving for chocolate can instantly improve a person’s mood. It’s lesser known that a huge range of natural foods can stimulate longer-lasting ‘happy’ hormones than chocolate ever could. Knowledge that could become more memorable thanks to Van Gogh is Bipolar, a restaurant and cafe that opened in Quezon City earlier this year. (The Dutch painter has been posthumously diagnosed with bipolar disorder by some psychiatrists, while others believe he suffered from schizophrenia.) The cafe only serves all-natural ‘happy-hormone-producing’ foods, set to lift customers’ moods. Its menu is loaded with foods that are believed to help balance the brain’s levels of serotonin and dopamine, which in turn helps alleviate mild to moderate depression. While nutritional scientists have assumed this for a while, it’s the first time—as far as we know—that the theory has been used as the starting point for a restaurant. Resembling a living room, Van Gogh is Bipolar’s interior is meant to make customers feel comfortable and at home. Dish names, meanwhile, are inspired by celebrities known to have suffered from mood disorders. There’s the Larry Flynt Cabbage Experience and Jim Carey Sardines—and even a series of Presidents’ Meals that includes concoctions for Roosevelt, Lincoln and Clinton. The menu is designed to show customers the key foods that maintain healthy hormone levels, helping them include these foods in their diet at home. Combining functional food with social entrepreneurship, the concept aims to make a real difference in a new way. An idea worth spreading! Menu: Spotted by: Robert Alejandro Ace Hotel in Portland has partnered with local distillers House Spirits to stock their minibars with limited-edition artisan spirits. In addition to gin, vodka, rum and blended whiskey, guests can also get a cocktail kit including fresh citrus, bucket of ice, cocktail shaker, jigger and martini glasses. Plus cocktail recipe cards for amateur mixologists in need of inspiration. Launched by native Northwesterners in 2004, House Spirits Distillery makes its spirits on SE 7th Avenue, less than two miles from Ace Hotel’s lobby. Its Apothecary Line—a collection of small-batch, limited edition spirits packaged in individually numbered 375 ml bottles—is currently only available at its own Apothecary Tasting Room, and in the Portland Ace Hotel. By offering guests an exclusive homegrown product, the hotel adds a unique element to their experience while supporting the local economy. Move over, Absolut and Toblerone 😉 (More urban beekeeping, this time atop a Toronto hotelLoews Hotels adopt local farmers.) It should no longer come as any surprise to brands large or small that they are the subject of conversation online—whether they participate or not. Launched by Seth Godin, Brands in Public is a new site that aggregates all those diverse conversations and presents them through a unified public-facing dashboard that gives any brand the chance to lead the discussion. A Google search on a brand name may retrieve many of the online conversations going on out there, but Squidoo-powered Brands in Public differs by virtue of the fact that the brand in question can curate the conversation. By sponsoring the page about its brand, a participating company can edit the introductory text, highlight the tweets and posts it likes, point to its blog, videos, Twitter feed and corporate website, and even—if it’s truly bold—highlight ways to get in touch. No censorship is involved, since the automatic feed of conversations from across the web—via Twitter, blogs, YouTube, Google Trends and more—is just that: automatic. Rather, it is through the left-hand side of any brand page that the company in question can answer its critics, highlight its fans, contribute questions or quizzes, or point to its official materials. So, rather than passively monitoring the public conversation, in other words, participating brands actually coordinate it and shape it as it happens. Brands in Public is supported by Boston-based BzzAgent. The cost of participation for a brand is USD 400 per month; no long-term commitment is required. For nonprofits, however, there’s the chance to be selected for a free Brands in Public page, thanks to a special selection process at the beginning of every month. There’s no doubt consumers will talk about pretty much any and every brand under the sun—again and again, in forum after forum, and probably with widely varying results. It’s by having a hand in those conversations, however, that brands can embrace what our sister site would call foreverism and turn transparency tyranny into transparency triumph. Bottom line, as Brands in Public puts it: “People are talking about you. Are you going to show up?” Last year we reported on Bin Ends, who gave the public the opportunity to take part in wine tastings via Twitter. Last month, a London restaurant got in on the social media act by crowdsourcing their wine list selection. L’Anima, Time Out’s pick for Best New Italian Restaurant 2009, hosted a tasting for six wine experts, including wine writer Anthony Rose, wine vlogger Denise Medrano and resident sommelier Gal Zohar. The tasters formed three teams to sample Zohar’s short list and settle on the final selection. “Unfortunately,” said the sommelier on his blog, “these enthusiasts, rarely agree with each other.” That’s where the public came in. For three wine categories where the experts couldn’t reach a consensus, L’Anima uploaded videos of each team pleading their case. Members of the public, who had been given advance notice of the wines and were updated on the selection process, were then asked to vote for the wines that they’d like to have in the restaurant. The exercise proved a successful marketing tool for L’Anima, not least because a prize of free wine and a tour of the restaurant was up for grabs for a randomly chosen Twitterer who tweeted about the process. And L’Anima’s audience benefited too, getting its nose into proceedings that were once the exclusive domain of experts. Contact Spotted by: Cecilia Biemann Innovative startups managed to scoop up some hefty cash prizes in Amsterdam on Friday. In addition to RidgeBlade winning EUR 500,000 in the Green Challenge, augmented reality browser Layar bagged EUR 75,000 in Vodafone’s Mobile Clicks contest. Layar is a free mobile browser that displays digital information over the real world image that a user views through his or her mobile phone. By turning on Layar and pointing her phone’s camera at a row of houses, for example, a user can see prices and details for houses that are on sale, can easily find nearby Thai restaurants or—in case of a cardiac emergency—locate the closest defibrillator. Besides layering practical information, the Dutch application is also being used to create games that mix real and imagined worlds. Developed by the same team that created ING’s ATM finder, Layar presents endless opportunities for entrepreneurs aiming to reach, help, entertain and delight consumers wherever they are. One to check out, if you haven’t already! Layar is currently available for phones that run Android, with a version for iPhone 3GS to follow soon. (Related: iPhone app uses augmented reality to help road warriors find a place to work.)