February 23, 2018 /Trend

‘Dreams money can buy’ // Retail must enter the world of dreams

Retail must enter the world of dreams

We are pursuing surrealist schemes, indulging in an exploration of dreams. Why? 100 years ago, the surrealist movement, which was rooted in transgressing reality was born. Thus, it is no coincidence to see thematic explorations of this art movement manifest in culture and retail today.

At the heart of surrealism lies the ambition to revolutionise human experience. 

This is not too dissimilar to the motivations of the fourth revolution that is taking place today.

Yet surrealism rejects the rational ideas and instead finds great value in the unconventional, the outmoded and the unconscious. Mirroring our thematic exploration of wonderment, surrealists were drawn to the fascination and beauty that poets and artists found in the unexpected.

While exploring the outmoded, we found ourselves contemplating Tiffany&Co’s everyday items. The jewellery brand re-imagined expensive materials as more humble items such as a ball of yarn and tin can.

Exploring surrealist thinking further, Selfridges’ launched a yearlong campaign entitled Radical Luxury. The department store shares on their website, ‘in a world where mass-produced ice-cream and even bin bags can be labelled ‘ luxury’, the word has become associated with something predictable, prosaic and banal’. True to surrealist thinking, the store design becomes a poetic exploration that inspires visitors to reignite their imagination, questioning whether luxury is found in an object or an idea.

In April, the store will host ‘The Flipside at The Old Selfridges Hotel’, inviting consumers to experienced diversified states of luxury and transient realities which will be brought to life through a surreal mirroring of the store’s accessory hall.


Surrealists questioned the dialectic notion of time in relation to consumption.

As such, this sentiment materialises in Selfridge’s radical luxury concept through an interview the department conducted with Natalie Melton, a Co-founder of The New Craftsmen.

When questioned, Melton disclosed that ‘you cannot buy time, and it is only over time that an object can become priceless’. She goes on to explain how, ‘As our consumption evolves, and (hopefully) we become less concerned with regular consumption of stuff and more considered in our purchases, then we will see a new sense of luxury emerging’. Adorning the Selfridges’ windows is the statement ‘discover the objects and ideas redefining the value of things’.

Essentially, this comes down to time, consumption, and meaning. Think back to our post exploring The Bare Necessistiests,  the parallels to surrealist experimentation surrounding time and consumption is not all that dissimilar to the fundamental concepts at the heart of Minimalism.

Drawing inspiration from Freud’s early work of the unconscious, Surrealists indulged in experiments of the mind. To escape everyday reality and explore new ideas, they would induce a state of mania through pure psychic automatism by undergoing sleep deprivation, and intoxication. Their main motivation was to remove all essence of control. Interestingly enough, a timely parallel of this being expressed in culture is Foo Fighter’s recently launched album, Mania. In our new tribe, Wild Adventurists, we explore how brands can engage with this growing consumer attitude regarding the liberation of the mind in greater detail.

Another key part of Freud’s work that was embraced ardently by surrealists was his studies of dreams. Launched earlier this year, Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams showcases growing interest for this complex part of the unconscious mind. As such, the part of the mind we cannot control is becoming an interesting communication currency for both brands and retailers. In 2018, we will see the pursuit of the unconscious manifest.

A largely complex and unexplained territory, wonderment in this field lends itself to the collaboration of pursuit of spiritualism over science. As the sleep market continues to gain traction, most notably in the wellness era, we look to neuroscience to understand how sleep is intrinsic to productivity and creativity, dreams are capturing the imagination of scientists, and lie at the heart of surrealist thinking.

To conclude, we draw inspiration from our post, Culture Connects. Authored by our retail strategy  team, we explore how cultural trends can be the platform for meaningful engagement and brand innovation.

Key Takeaways

  • 2018 welcomes a new era for meaning. Ideas are the new currency, wonder is an aspirational passtime and delight in the unexpected becomes necessity
  • Embrace surrealist thinking as a muse for design direction and creative thinking. Look to our post on culture connects to understand why this is instrumental for brands to build empathetic engagement and lasting connections.
  • Explore unconscious waters. Consider how in store activations and brand communications can translate to the consumer pursuit of mind liberation.
  • Experiment with the uncharted territory of dreams and how these can be a tool to nurture self expression, and consider how this can court consumer creativity and escapism.

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