With nearly 4 billion people now able to access the internet, it's not surprising that people are becoming more aware of other countries' styles and trends. People can now get a glimpse of how others live, dress, work, eat, and think, all without needing to travel.
This means that people from areas both rural and cosmopolitan are becoming more global in their tastes, borrowing menu inspiration from Thailand or repurposing their clothing to emulate Italian styles. Companies are developing an appetite for borrowing international designs as well, bringing trends from one culture to another.
Perhaps the most intriguing part is how these designs blend not only different countries' sensibilities, but also the past with the present. That means these cross-cultural designs can take on different interpretations, as these brands prove:
Blending clothing heritage and trends
Clothing is one area where trends have been easier to transport across borders; as a small, lightweight commodity, it has more flexibility as far as distribution goes. But clothing has sometimes been viewed as high fashion when it ventures over from Europe; other times, trendy clothing from overseas has been treated as an impractical flash in the pan.
Lee Jeans is working to change both perspectives with its Lee 101 European Collection. Lee, founded in 1889 as one of the original U.S. denim companies, provided durable workwear for pioneering farmers and industrial workers and adapted several times, shifting from workwear to casual wear to fashion lines. This is where Lee saw an opportunity to blend American craftsmanship with European insights.
With the tagline "The hardworking men who built the United States wore them. Now meet the jeans that carry their genes: Lee 101 European Collection," its European-inspired line features Italian denim and modern fits to transform the jeans most popular with its European customers into a fresh option for its American customers.
Revitalizing past and present kitchenware
Kitchenware had a heyday moving across the pond toward the United States during the country's first few centuries; china patterns were collected and passed from one generation to the next, living in hutches and finding a place on dining tables across the U.S. It was one way immigrants kept family heirlooms in the mix as they adapted to a new culture, and it connected their offspring to a culture they'd never known.
That faded as the U.S. shifted toward brighter, less traditional kitchenware. But Royal Delft, a porcelain company founded in 1653, found that people weren't completely done with the old styles. The New Traditionalist design movement, focused on utilizing traditional looks in new ways, has revitalized the well-known blue-and-white Delftware patterns. The style of china, created after Chinese exports ended during its civil war in the mid-1600s, featured blue cows, tulips, and windmills on a white background.
Its latest incarnation, Royal Delft's Blue D1653 collection, combines the ancestry of the blue-and-white paintings with clean, uncluttered designs crafted by modern Dutch designers. The brand implores people to "call it contemporary nostalgia, new originality or the purest form of Dutch Design"; regardless of what it's called, the brand has not only combined its old patterns with new sensibilities, but it's also licensed its designs for less traditional wallpaper and fabrics, making even more new things from what has migrated across the pond once again.
Testing taste buds with new and traditional flavors
Craft beer's popularity has exploded in recent years, with the number of American breweries shooting from 1,447 in 2005 to 5,005 at 2016's end. Most are tied to craft beer brewing, and the industry has seen mostly double-digit increases since 2005. This has opened wide the opportunities for smaller brewers to incorporate more traditional flavors or tastes found more frequently in other locales.
Founders Brewing Co., a U.S. beer company, ventured to the U.K. in the mid-2010s. The brand felt its wares would export well, and the U.K. was a particularly judicious choice: Founders' beers include many versions of British styles, such as IPAs and porters. Black Abbey Brewing Company, also located in the United States, was inspired by the Reformation to create Belgian-style ales for its modern-day beer fans similar to what Martin Luther himself would have drank.
And the craft beer movement hasn't been one-way: "From my perspective, the American craft beer scene has a huge impact on our local beer scene," says Hopfmeister's Marc Gallo. Gallo's brewery, based in Munich, avoided relying on traditional lagers in favor of Midwestern stouts and California-style IPAs. Others in Europe have adapted American flavors to local palettes, making beers similar in style but less bitter.
All of these brands have found ways to use their access to other cultures' preferences to deliver new options to their customers. These blended options reflect consumer demand and incorporate perspectives consumers are hungry for -- and this new awareness just may change tastes, resulting in an even more connected world.