COVID CONVERSATIONS: KATE

A conversation with Kate

Kate Stockman is a trendanalyst and business strategist. Her instagram usually is a 24/7 series that takes us on a rollercoaster ride around the world of new restaurants, galleries, underground fashion parties for the happy few and work meets life design fairs and airport lounges. She now feels it may have been a bit too much… Kate reflects about our future reality, suggests eating oysters and download the app “Nothing”, we did… nothing happened.

First of all, how are you doing in these weird corona times?

Well, I’m doing fine. There are different ways to cope with what happened to us in the last 8 weeks I think. I see people desperately trying to keep on going, despite the lock-down, the social distancing and the nasty virus outside. I hear them dreaming about gin tonics on a sunny terrace, summer festivals they miss and sports events that are cancelled. During lockdown people amuse us with smart, crazy and sometimes very fun challenges, celebrities keep on broadcasting their real (& fake) self and others want to understand as quickly as possible how we are going to live after the pandemic. Webinars about the post-Corona future, articles and podcasts with dramatic & utopian (and everything in between) future scenarios are launched at the speed of light, and I think this is all part of the process to cope with it. But on the other side of the spectrum there are people who embrace this slow life without effort, without any difficulty, and really enjoy it.  I am one of them.                                           

People who know me may find it strange and even hard to believe, but I seamlessly slipped into this other way of life and I’m loving it. The Covid-19 quarantine came for me at the right time. My entire life, I’ve been running from one job to another, writing columns, giving workshops, lectures and some teaching still. Friends, raising a family, traveling (work-pleasure and combing both), exhibitions, restaurants, events, parties….I’m not complaining (because I love it) but it was… maybe a little too much?

Due to the international lockdown, I had to cancel work trips to Brasil, Kentucky and India, two so called food safari’s (Berlin & Copenhagen) and a shoot of a trend film. Instead of a completely fully booked spring, I suddenly had some free space in my agenda. Weird. In April I am usually in Milan for the Design Week, this year I literally saw spring taking over winter nature in my garden. Magical.

Did you see it from a far – the lockdown etc – or did the measures surprise you?

For me it came as no surprise at all. The Corona virus hit Asia when I was in New York for work and the news that came in was not reassuring at all. At that moment we heard the ‘Salone di Mobile’ in Milan was being rescheduled and I knew it was serious. It was clear that this was not ‘just a flu’ as the Belgian government tried to let us believe at the time. I remember I ordered the first mouth masks in my hotel room and being so sorry I didn’t buy some in Tokyo where they are standard gear in public spaces.

Personally I think we will have a second wave and a third, as we (Western) people are not used to be told what to do, and it does not help either that our government keeps on giving half breed or very mixed messages on the what & the how. I am convinced that social distancing & preventive testing are needed but I’m also a big fan of wearing mouth masks wherever people are crossing each other. The fact that I already loved them the moment the guys from “Bring me the horizon” performed with mouth masks, or Marine Serre showed some outfit matching beauties on the AW2020 catwalk in January adds to the fun.

Do embrace statement mouth (nose) coverings as part of your future wardrobe and do it for your fellow humans! Be inspired by Japan. By the way, when Rick Owens, Mister ‘Cool’ himself, wears a mouth mask, you can do too. You’ll get used to it, believe me.

 

You have your finger on the pulse when it comes down to…well anything really. So the past weeks, what initiatives surprised you (local/international)? Could you give some good examples (or bad ones) and why?

As a trend analyst it’s not my job to be surprised, not in the positive way, not in the negative. I observe, I listen and I try to understand what happens and above all why.

There is no denying, there were many heartwarming initiatives that took place. I enjoyed it the most when creativity took over our personal fear and people brought beauty in times of anxiety & isolation. Check out the YouTube video of the Opéra National de Paris (Restez chez vous or the ‘Blijf in uw kot’ message above the dancers of the opera), the Instagram account @tussenkunstenquarantaine or @carolinedemaigret (French Vogue’s editor plays one song a day on a vintage turntable). Another thing that stroke me was the rise and fall of the so called celebrities. Some fell off their ‘pied de stalle’ (Madonna, Ellen Degeneres anyone?), others rose above themselves and brought fun, silliness and a humble personality. I enjoyed top chefs Massimo Bottura in his ‘Kitchen Quarantine’, actor Alec Baldwin during his bathroom talks (sometimes as a hilarious imitation of  Donald himself) or the guys from Little Britain (reunited exclusively during lock down)

I’m fascinated by recent technological design innovations (the problem solving part) that were created at a phenomenal speed, thanks to the collaborative spirit humans gain during a tough crisis. Alas, as always in a crisis we see the best of people, but also the worst. Apparently humans can’t control their instincts to take advantage of these moments for their own win & gain. Think about the continuation of the destruction of the Amazon forest in full crisis, the growing domestic violence against women during Corona times, non-functional medical face masks or the child porn hacking of the Zoom sessions.

As a trend forecaster these must be interesting times. What lessons can we already learn? What “seeds” are being planted in this crisis that might come to bloom later?

As Banksy said in 2011: “Sorry. The lifestyle you ordered is currently out of stock”. I agree. It was about time we realised that persisting in our ‘normal consumerism-way-of life’ was not liveable for the long haul. Last year in Milan we had two days of ‘urgent’ conversations about the potential of super intelligence presented by emerging super intelligent machines and technology. How could we have imagined that today we would not debate about technology, but about a virus that holds the entire world in a strangling sleep modus and about all the disruptive shifts this pandemic will set in motion, negative and positive ones. Not about how man and machine can collaborate to create a new paradigm for society, one that combines the superintelligence of technologies with the super-sensitivity of humans, but about saving the economic system and keep on fighting global warming & climate change at the same time? No, of course not.  The future was so bright and technology was pulling us in as if it was God itself. Today we know better. 

There is no denying that this is a time for reflection on what makes a good life. Lots of things we needed to do or change a long time ago, were forced on us in only a few weeks’ time. No flying long distance, staycations, driving only for essential transportations, walk, meet the neighbours, buy less, buy local, appreciate our care takers, reconnect with friends, take time for your kids and family, reading books, doing nothing….If we can see all positives in these disruptive times where nothing is certain anymore, we can maybe finally start to refocus our life and recalibrate our current society for the better. If we have the courage and if we remember what this crisis is teaching us. If…

Any ideas that were already there that are/were suddenly gaining momentum?

Of course ! The Corona pandemic is absolutely a catalyst to speed up movements that were already happening. For instance, time was ‘the new luxury’. Tomorrow’s focus will take that place.

In a world that looks different every week, we must reevaluate what is important in our lives and look if we can appreciate the things we already have more. Less choice, curated stuff, spirituality…all of it was already on our map but the pandemic pushes things forward. I was happy with Armani’s decision to stop the fast fashion ratrace by slowing down the launches of new collections by prolonging the normal selling periods. Not only now due to Corona, but he will continue to do so from now on. Summer clothes should not be sold in winter and vice versa. Clear. This new kind of clarity, taking this moment to push radical changes forward is refreshing.

Your client-portfolio is quite diverse, but I guess they all have questions about what’s next. How do you prepare for these questions? 

I tell them to be patient. I tell them that we live a historical moment, one we never experienced ever before. We have no scenario ready on what’s next. The truth is that we are not used to this and people are having difficulties not to have plans, goals or a full agenda. I try not to jump into short term conclusions and quick fixes. There are none. We will need new refreshed thoughts, we need to look at the past in order to look forward.

We have to realise that we all lived through very strange, fearful and uncertain times and things will not return to the old normal, even if we really want that to happen. So the last thing we must do is try to fix this with short term predictions & prognosis. I prefer to be still for a while, observe and learn, in order to be ready with a new future forward approach, challenging the status quo we’ve been in for too long. 

The hospitality industry, especially the cafe and restaurant scene, is one of the largest victims of this crisis. If you would be asked to help the experts guiding our country towards a viable exit strategy, what advice would you be giving them to turn this crucial part of our food consumption industry back on? How do you think the future of our HORECA scene could evolve?

The answer will not come from the government. The industry itself will have to reinvent itself. During lock down there were some fantastic initiatives taken by our entrepreneurial food & drinks specialists: personal chef -home-deliveries, donate-a-ball for the care workers by Balls & Glory, theme related home sampling, drive in concerts, Zoom blind-date diners, mothers-day take-away gastronomy by Souvenir and Me Liefste, cooking live sessions, and green house dining for two by Mediamatic to name a few. As always, when in deep shit, creativity pops up and saves the day. We will come up with strategies that will do things differently, not trying to turn back to normal with less people. I visited at least two restaurants a week (I have a great job, I know), and I miss it terribly. But it made me think what I missed the most? The food, the service, the trill of discovery, the hip crowd, the hypes, the design or the warmth of real hospitality…I count on creative fresh ideas for drastically different hospitality as an opportunity instead of damage control. Food for thought, I know.

No festivals this summer, potentially no travel (Ibiza), so what will you be doing over the next 4 months?

Read magazines & ‘work related’ books (that stayed untouched for months), go through old and recent reflection notes, stroll through my photo archives, watch documentaries and more Black Mirror episodes, discuss with friends and experts, have early morning talks with my family who know me well and do not always look at things the same way I do. It’s refreshing, and it opens up rooms in my head that were closed for a long time.

I will also continue with what I started: reflect about my personal path, discuss with as many people as possible and start mapping new strategies for the better. This extra ‘slow life’ time came at such a good time in my life that It will be hard to let go I’m afraid.

A Dutch friend told me about an online happiness course she is taking at Yale University. I jumped in and joined too. Back to school, yes!

I also hope that exhibitions & museums will open again and I want to travel again, as soon as possible. I feel that we need to look at the way we used to travel in a totally different way. If we are honest, we knew that the freedom of jumping on and off planes, flying to the most remote places in the world and mingle with exotic cultures was not sustainable.

And last but not least, I plan to write two books. I have a clear plan on what to write, so I just have to start. Keep you posted!

And finally, do you have any tips for our readers on how to pass their time?

1. Eat (adult) oysters. They boost your immune system with a high dose of Zinc and are delicious. A tip from @chefdanbarber (He knows). 

2. Look around you, everything you see can inspire you. It will come handy in post-Corona times.

3. Some anti-social time can do wonders. 

4. Talk less and start to listen.

5. When it’s too much in your head, turn to nature. Walk, breath or just do nothing. Download the app Nothing. It’s nothing and that’s the point.

6. The only thing that really counts in life is people, taking care of each other and nature. 

>> Stay in the loop. Check out Kate’s blog, website or instagram !