In a world where minimalism seems to be the preferred aesthetic, Icelandic born artist Kristjana S Williams shatters the mould with beautiful chaos. Her intricate, large-scale and three-dimensional works of art – as well as prints, wallpaper and furniture – flaunt bright vibrancy and eye-catching detail.

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The devil is truly in the detail with intricately crafted art pieces that evoke constant discovery and a sense of fantasy. Her wildly colourful and striking pieces centre on the symmetry of living things layered with paper, Victorian engravings, photographs, leaves, twigs and other miscellaneous objects.

d7058a_d3471617435b4439bb43e8be1bd35b6a.png_srz_p_571_386_75_22_0.50_1.20_0 Upon intimate viewing, one is drawn into an immersive and investigative experience discovering exotic creatures and curious features. Birds adorned with butterfly wings and owls parading with antlers live delightfully within her work.

img_2692_1024img_2690_1024Williams’ fascination with exotic atmospheres began at a young age in the grey and unforgiving landscape of Iceland, which sparked her thirst for colour and vibrancy.

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For modern art connoisseurs, Williams’ work is an exceptional and contrasting alternative to today’s standard beauty of clean and crisp lines and imagery.

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Kristjana Williams’ work has been featured in the Shanghai Exhibition Centre, The V&A London Design Festival as well as other galleries throughout the world. She has been well received in the art community winning the Dulux “Best Use of Colour” Award, a D&AD Award, a New York Festivals Grand Prix & First Prize, and she was shortlisted for the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.

Commencement speeches are all the rage. Words of wisdom from JK Rowling to David Foster Wallace, from Steve Jobs to Jim Carrey seek to inspire, motivate and shed light to young adults ready to take on the world. These speeches are often humorous, sometimes dark, but most importantly illuminating.

Rousing snippets from these speeches tend to make the rounds on Facebook and Twitter feeds. While the target audience for these speeches are young grads starting out on their journeys, these speeches quite frequently resonate with those of us that have been on the journey for a bit longer. Those of us who have already taken that first leap and have too often been met with failure and disappointment.

Sometimes it is difficult when you’re deep in the processes of life to not get caught up in the process. One year, three years, or ten years into a career, it can be easy to fall into a trap of comfort and conformity, way off track from the blazing path from which we set off. These speeches serve as reminders of our deeper purposes for those of us who have been met with doubt, fear or frustrations along the way. They have the power to realign our focus to our original intent – to take the world by storm, make our mark, change the world.

mellody hobson graduation speech

One such commencement speech that we found particularly relevant is Mellody Hobson’s recent speech for USC. President of Chicago-based Ariel Investments and one of the most prominent African-American women in finance, her 21 minute speech implored graduates to remember 3 simple words: Just. Add. Bravery.

She urges grads to ‘push beyond the boundaries that hold us back from living the lives that we want,’ reminding us to step outside of our comfort zones and have the courage to expand our worlds. She aptly demonstrates that the key to reaching success, creativity and happiness is to combine bravery with hard work, imagination and love. Bold words to live by.

So it happens that in today’s world all of us can always access a wellspring of inspiration, vision and the simple push that we may have forgotten or missed at the start of our journey.

Watch Hobson’s full 21 minute speech below.

Veggie-loving, health-conscious moms get excited because the experts in healthy meals just made it a whole lot easier to feed your family. Amy's Drive Thru Amy’s Kitchen announced that they would be taking their retail brand into the fast food arena with the same commitment of “selling great-tasting vegetarian food.” The vegetarian drive-thru will prepare all of its non-GMO, egg and peanut-free products onsite whilst offering vegan and gluten-free options. The vast majority of the quick and healthy drive-thru options, like pizza, meat-free hamburgers and burritos, will be organic, locally sourced and competitively priced. amy's drive thru choices This is an exciting step for the brand that started in 1987 when founders Andy and Rachel Berliner were searching for quick and natural meals to feed their young daughter, Amy, and others who appreciated good, homemade vegetarian food. Their first product, a vegetarian pot pie, was an immediate success and the retail brand grew from one frozen pie to 200 frozen meals and a line of canned goods. amy's drive thru burrito amyssalad1 As modern consumer trends are increasingly shifting towards health-consciousness, fast food spots like McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s have responded by offering a few healthy food items as a secondary part of their menu. Amy’s Drive-Thru will effortlessly differentiate itself since healthy, convenient and organic food choices sit at the core of their business. amy's drive thru pizza amy's drive thru burger Amy’s Drive Thru also plans to center their infrastructure on a sustainable and environmentally healthy building. The restaurant will have a living roof with drought resistant, local plants, which will reduce energy needs and take in some of that extra CO2. The furnishings will also be constructed from recycled materials, adding to the appeal for a hungry vegetarian on the go. amy's drive thru site plan Several fast food chains have made the leap into retail, but Amy’s Kitchen seems to be one of the first retail brands to take the leap into the fast food category, and they seem certain to shake up the traditional approach to eating on the go. We racked our brains and couldn’t think of any other fast food restaurants that began in retail. Can you think of any? Tweet us @bluemarlin to let us know.

maitre choux

Out and about in Chelsea last week, we happened upon this colourfully pop-tastic storefront. On display in the window inviting all to salivate, were rows of scrumptiously gorgeous, magnificently hand-crafted eclairs. This is Maître Choux and it’s sure to be the next big thing in sweet treats.
maitre choux

Founded by three Michelin-starred chef Joakim Prat, Maître Choux succeeds in indulging multiple senses at once. The playful yet sophisticated pop-art concept is echoed in the packaging and interior design, and reflects a modern and accessible French aesthetic. Though éclairs are a staple in any French bakery, this is a distinctly London shop and by relegating the menu to these few items, owner Prat proves himself not just as a master of baking these delicacies, but as the name suggests, a true pastry artist. His éclairs command attention and are unsurprisingly delicious, perfect as a sweet indulgence that also works as a luxurious gift, as they are almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

maitre choux

As visually stunning as they are delicious, the éclairs, choux and chouquettes baked in this store are little pieces of art. They aren’t the ordinary chocolate éclairs that you’d find in the traditional pâtisserie, but rather, these delicious delicacies have been updated with unique flavours such as Tahitian vanilla, pistachio, Spanish raspberry, salted caramel, and tiramisu. Just like the pastries, the brand identity takes a modern twist on the classic French bakery, striking a perfect balance between fancy and fun.
maitre choux eclairs

As our obsession for these vibrantly elegant éclairs began to blossom, we thought about the last time a pretty little dessert got our pulse racing. Not much of a mystery there. Can you say cupcakes?

DSC_1136-1The craze for beautifully decorated tiny cakes took the world by storm with bakeries exclusively selling cupcakes popping up all over the place. With Sprinkles in Los Angeles, Magnolia in New York, and Hummingbird Bakery in London, they were the hottest thing in baked goods. But has the gourmet cupcake trend lost its sweetness? The closing of New York City-based Crumbs Back Shop Inc. last year would suggest so.

A Crumbs cupcake shop sits empty on Federal Street Tuesday, July 8, 2014, in Boston. Crumbs says it is shuttering all of its stores a week after the struggling cupcake shop operator was delisted from the Nasdaq. (AP Photo Stephan Savoia)

There are many theories on what led to the end of cupcake mania from them being too expensive to problems of having a single-product shop. But maybe it’s simply a matter of people desiring something different to hit the sweet spot. In the world of everyday luxury, consumers are looking for indulgences that will delight but not break the bank. If a brand plans to thrive in this dynamic space, to transcend being a trend and become a staple of sweet tidings, it will need to learn from these mistakes. Could Maître Choux’s éclairs be the next sweetest thing? Only time will tell, but we certainly hope so.

joakim prat

Here founder and three Michelin-starred chef Joakim Prat, shows off éclairs fresh out of the oven. Maître Choux has has already seen a range of success, including recent catering events for fashion line launches and Damien Hirst’s 50th birthday party.

wes anderson bar luce Last month, Bar Luce opened in Milan to immediate acclaim mostly due to its sweetly quirky and imaginative design created by American filmmaker Wes Anderson. With almost sentimental attention to detail and a retro-wonderful aesthetic, the cafe mirrors the dreamy alternate worlds that Anderson is known for creating in such films such as The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Royal Tenenbaums. wes anderson bar luce This concept cafe illustrates how consumers are flocking to brands, products and services that not only reflect a unique sense of style, but also offers them an experience that is poignant, personal and authentic. While this is true for all categories, it is particularly apt for coffee as consumers here range from habitual drinkers seeking ritual to connoisseurs on the hunt for authenticity to experimenters looking to try something new.

To respond to the differing needs and desires of coffee consumers, it is important to have on-the-pulse awareness of what is happening in the category. Below are six coffee trends that are accompanying this renaissance of coffee culture that is steeped in quality artisanship, distinctive styling, and authentic experiences.

1. Back to Basics Say goodbye to mass market coffee cocktails and flavour additives. As consumers become more knowledgeable about coffee origins and flavours, they want to experience the original taste of coffee: no sugar, no milk, just black. This kind of coffee connoisseurship involves awareness of country origins, production processes and specific brewing methods including pour over, cafetiere, chemex, aeropress and cold press. back to basics coffee back to basics coffee 2. Science vs. Humanity As consumers discover more about coffee origins, bean roasting and brewing methods, they are eager to delve deeper into the science behind coffee making. For the devoted coffee aficionado, the technical craft of brewing is becoming more available and less intimidating through coffee fairs and events from the London Coffee Festival to individual coffee brewing master classes like the ones held at Workshop Coffee in London. london coffee festival coffee workshop 3. Signature Roasts Boutique coffee shops tend to target those coffee enthusiasts that are aware of where their coffee is sourced and made. Many are roasting and grinding their own beans and finding ways to emphasise the unique flavours through distinctive brand packaging. Consumers are guaranteed a local and authentic experience without mass market interference, and can even have their favourite artisan blends to savour at home or share with friends. signature roastssignature roasts 4. Breakfast Piccolo The Piccolo, commonly known as “low tide latte”, is made with a single espresso shot in a Macchiatto glass, which is then filled with steamed milk. It’s stronger and smaller than a latte – perfect for the coffee drinker who needs a coffee hit without getting too full – leaving space for breakfast. brunch piccolo

5. Ethicool

Smaller coffee houses often have a smaller supply chain and individual relationships with the farmers that supply their beans. They are able to use this network to their advantage and further incorporate this down-to-earth mentality to their communication and design. This unique ethicool style flips ethical codes on their head in a way that mass market coffee companies aren’t able to do.

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6. Coffee House Character Non-chain cafés need to give consumers a reason to spend £2.50 or more on a cup of coffee, rather than going to their local (probably cheaper) chain. To offer more to their customers, many have invested in creating a cool, stylised atmosphere – often founded on quite niche aesthetics – engaging consumers with inspired interior design and a unique branding and packaging style. coffee house cool coffee house cool Overall, these trends show a main tendency towards cultivating an awareness and appreciation of coffee culture, localised and original styling, and creating memorable experiences. Wes Anderson’s café is a perfect example of how consumers are eager to have more aspects of their lives a reflection of their identity and personal ethos – especially when it comes to such a particular element of daily life like coffee.

dove yes we are beach body ready

There has been an incredible wave of backlash against the controversial Protein World advert that has spread like wildfire in the London Underground. The ad features a perfectly-toned, perfectly-bronzed, perfectly-photoshopped model standing in a tiny bikini alongside the words ‘Are you beach body ready?’ Almost immediately the ad was perceived by many groups to be offensive, irresponsible and harmful, and the ad was met with vandalism, defacement, twitter rants, and petitions to have it taken down.

Protein World has taken an interesting stand and has gone on quite the sharp counter-attack to the hate, standing firm in their stance of ‘self-improvement,’ though from their Twitter replies, it sounds a little more like fat-shaming. Arjun Seth, Chief Executive of Protein World, has even argued that people campaigning against the ad are ‘terrorists, irrational, and extremist.’

protein world dove

In a new twist, someone has cleverly fired back at Protein World by creating their own version of this ad using the logo from Dove, a leading beauty brand that has long been campaigning for ‘real beauty.’ The spoof ad features three curvy, smiling, real women proudly asserting ‘Yes. We are beach body ready.’

After being made aware of the image, a Dove representative said, “the ad was not created by Dove, but we do believe that every woman is beach body ready!” Dove has long been a champion for widening the definition of beauty and whoever created the new poster captured the essence of Dove’s mission: every body is ideal, every body is ready.

This mystery creator knew how Dove draws on an emotional connection with their consumers in their advertising and design and though the image may not have been created by Dove, it completely fooled us as the message is entirely in touch with the core of their brand identity.

protein world last minute

More spoof ads have popped up in the last few days, including one from Lastminute.com and one from Carlsberg which not only appeared in social media, but also in digital billboards on the London Underground next to the Protein World ad.

protein world carlsberg beer body ready

Li Lihong Vigour China mcdonalds

This week in Shanghai our Founder and CEO Andrew Eyles had the honour of meeting artist Li Lihong at his solo exhibition ‘Vigour-China’ at the Art Labor Gallery.

Li Lihong Vigour China apple

Lihong’s work connects the global, contemporary experience with practised, cultural tradition and re-examines the bridge between the East and West. By fusing the symbols of Nike, McDonald’s, Apple and Disney with traditional Chinese patterns, he creates a new and reflective visual experience. This mash-up goes beyond being clever and transcends into an elegant beauty all into itself, encapsulating Lihong’s philosophy that “Modernism and Post-Modernism is not the enemy of tradition, but rather is a renewed expression of tradition.”

Li Lihong Vigour China mickey

The detailed craftsmanship and exquisite use of ceramic and porcelain in combination with these modern, global brands succeeds in revealing a perspective that is both critical and accepting of the dual and complex world that we live in. Lihong acknowledges the presence of these iconic brands and their influence in his life while still expressing what he calls “the vigorous nature of contemporary China.”

Li Lihong Vigour China

The Vigour-China exhibit will be displayed at the Art Labor Gallery in Shanghai until 31st May 2015.

Li Lihong Vigour China absolut

Li Lihong Vigour China Nike

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Li Lihong Vigour China coca cola

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