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Decoding Next: Five trends you need to know including unmoney, cabin fever and hijab chic

Sparks & honey tracks cultural trends by drawing on dozens of data sources, hundreds of scouts and cultural strategists in our London, New York and Los Angeles offices. In January, we covered hundreds of signals and featured the best daily in our app N2 (Now, Next). Here are the hottest trends summarized exclusively for The Drum.

1. Your money's no good here

After the financial crisis in 2008, trust in the economic system was at an all-time low. We began to see crypto currencies; bartering, sharing and collaborative economies; people trading tweets for a sandwich.

All of these examples, big and small, are new ways of looking at value outside of the traditional monetary system and what we investigate in our report, 'UnMoney: The Value of Everything.' The value system of tomorrow is in peer-to-peer exchanges without middlemen and value in new assets and new ways to trade value.

The app TimeRepublik takes money out of the equation by allowing people with specialized skills to trade their services, no matter what it is, valued by time alone. So a personal trainer’s hour is worth a lawyer’s hour — with no hands exchanging money.

People.io is a startup that gives consumers control of handing over their data and give them an incentive to do so in the form of credits for products and subscriptions. (No cold, hard cash — yet.) It promises its clients their data will be protected, and it makes its money from brands that buy advertising via their B2B platform to engage with those consumers that opted in.

Airline tickets and boarding passes are not transferable, but there are no government rules that prohibit seat swaps. Seateroo is an app that lets you pay to switch seats on a flight — with each other. First you list what you're looking for, then you find someone interested in switching. Payment made; deal done. There's even a way for someone in a different class of seat to decide they want to make a little extra cash to go back to coach.

2. A cabin in the woods

It was fashionable in the late 19th century to prescribe "rest cures" to women (and some men) with nervous disorders. And now it seems some 21st century neurasthenics — allergic to Wi-Fi, constant digital connection, and the modern world itself — are looking to get away from it all by going to, or at least fantasizing about going to, cabins and tree houses.

There's a cult book titled "Cabin Porn," along with a number of Tumblr accounts featuring photos of lonesome, rustic A-frames from Utah to Norway to Malawi.

And Airbnb recently released its top wish-listed destinations and properties and tree houses were at the top, particularly one in Atlanta in the woods right outside the center of the city. The three rooms — a living room, bedroom and deck — are connected by rope bridges, and the bathroom is a 30-second walk from the main house. You’d think more high-end, amenity-rich homes would be at the top of people’s lists, but, according to Airbnb, people are looking for “fantasy.”

3. Hijab chic

Given the charged political climate we're living in, with Islamophobia and misconceptions about Muslims on the rise, it’s powerful to see beautiful images of Muslim girls and women — both for non-Muslims and for Muslims alike.

Haneefah Adam, a 24-year-old from Nigeria, mashed up the iconic blonde haired blue-eyed Barbie in a headscarf many Muslim women wear called the hijab to create her Hijarbie Instagram account. Adam even sews Hijarbie's beautiful clothes and says her desire is to inspire Muslim girls. "It’s about having a doll that looks like her, that represents her own cultural and religious background.”

Italian designers Dolce & Gabbana also recently debuted a line of clothing aimed at its Muslim consumers featuring abayas, or long cloaks, and hijabs, or head scarves, decorated with flower and lace designs that are the design house's signature.

That Muslim women represent a $266bn market is no doubt part of the motivation, and other brands including DKNY and Tommy Hilfiger are already selling hijabs to designer-loving Muslim women. These images both bring Muslim women into a non-stereotypical visual plane and raises them to a conventional place of beauty. As one commenter on Jezebel wryly noted, "Capitalism, bringing us all together. Eventually."

4. Le doggy bag

You know the movement not to waste food has truly gone global when the French begin to do something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago: take home leftover food with them after eating at a restaurant.

A new French law is seeking to force restaurants that serve more than 150 customers a day to give out doggy bags. The law is seeking to curb food waste in a city in which creates 125 pounds of organic waste per year per capita, consisting largely of leftover and unconsumed packaged food. The obstacles are mainly cultural, as cuisine is raised to practically a religion in France, and chefs fear that food taken home will "degrade" the original preparation.

Although about 75 per cent of French people are open to doggy bags, 70 per cent have never taken one home. They’re about to.

5. Virtual reality art gallery and donuts

Bosch VR app trailer from BDH on Vimeo.

VR is taking us to new worlds – and old ones in a new way, from the way we experience art to even something as basic eating.

If you've ever stood in front of Hieronymus Bosch's painting "The Garden of Earthly Delights," you know you can get lost in its manifold surreal images. With the app Bosch VR, you can surround yourself in the cryptic triptych's images through a virtual reality app you can get on Android or iPhone. The app helps you experience flying into the Garden of Eden on a giant fish, encountering pink fountains, a unicorn, and a white giraffe. A fish guiding you through art? Not sure how you can say no to this.

What if your favorite decadent foods, like fried chicken, mac 'n' cheese, and gooey fudge sundaes, could be enjoyed with zero health, allergy or caloric repercussions? Jinsoo An at Project Nourished in Los Angeles is making that a (virtual) reality by creating a guilt-free virtual eating experience that almost feels like the real thing. One NPR reporter gave it a try, and donning an Oculus Rift headset, had the illusion he was at a dining room table in a Zen garden, with a plate of sushi in front of him.

The scent of a sushi restaurant wafted his way from a device that misted scent, and both IRL and in VR, his chopsticks maneuvered a piece of sushi into his mouth. The 'sushi' was actually a small cube of dashi-flavored agar agar, a vegan substitute for gelatin. He felt the experience of tasting sushi, like "being whacked in the mouth with fish," even though the texture of the agar agar turned to "mush," busting the sushi illusion.

Restaurateur Nguyen Tran said that he saw Project Nourished as an "open canvas for experimentation" one in which he could add or subtract nutrition or flavors, effectively turning "food into a piece of code."

Future applications for VR food are numerous: you could get children to ingest vitamins in the form of virtual donuts and cookies, allow those with gluten allergies to bite into crusty French baguettes, and allow those on strict diets to eat forbidden foods with abandon. Food porn, in other words.

Barbara Herman is senior writer at sparks & honey