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Laura Petrielli-Pulice - Showing at the Strut Fashion Show In the early years, were your clients For those who don’t know you and who aren’t familiar with Vex Clothing, can you exclusively from the fetish community? share a little history of the company and When I was in fashion school I trained and your design background? interned under a fetish latex designer. She was primarily designing for fetish interests, I discovered latex while I was studying at but since I was studying fashion I wanted to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. With its unique qualities, I was naturally incorporate the material into my projects. I fixated on latex, an outlier to typical materials began playing with high fashion concepts in fashion design. I studied under a local latex using latex as the medium. It wasn’t something that many people were doing designer and haven’t looked back since. and I was on a path to being the first to cross over latex to high fashion. After I was on For years, people have assumed that Vex Rihanna’s Styled to Rock, I started connecting is a big company with multiple designers and networking in the industry. I was being and a huge production team. The truth is, recommended for different celebrity styling Vex is me, and I am Vex. I began the brand and design jobs. Over time my business and before graduating college twenty years ago, clientele has grown, but I have always had a and it has been my sole focus and passion mix of fashion, costuming and fetish. sketching, designing and making each piece by hand in my Southern California studio with the help from my small team. Each piece Most people aren’t aware that the fetish created at the studio has a story, and for me, community is a very large community. Please enlighten them. each piece I create is personal. Vex has taken me to places I could have never imagined. I was a runner up on the Bravo fashion competition show, “Styled to Rock,” hosted by Rihanna. My pieces have been worn by icons of fashion, art, and culture, including Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, Katy Perry, and Dita Von Teese. My work has found its way onto the pages of iconic magazines like W, Vogue, Interview Magazine, and more. Vex has become greater than I ever imagined or dreamed of when I first discovered latex. In a world where cotton, silk, wool, denim and linen are so readily available and visible, how did you decide to work with latex? When I began designing I dabbled with other materials since I was great at designing and sewing, but my latex pieces always sold the best. I saw I had a skill and loved the material. The look, feel and smell of latex is like no other. There is no greater feeling than seeing the right person discover latex.

You are right about that, the fetish community is huge and continuing to grow. Fetish fashion designers saw a big surge in business during 2020 pandemic times and I don’t think this is going to slow down. More people are discovering the fabric! So now, your clients include a who’s who in music, television and fashion: Rihanna, Beyonce, Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, the Kardashians and VOGUE Magazine. Since pulling off a great latex look is all about the fit, how do you design for someone like Beyonce, and what is the fitting process like? The custom fitting process requires a lot of detail, time and adjustments. I’ll collect measurements for the perfect form fit and then typically be on set making final adjustments. Stars don’t end up on “Best Dressed” lists or suffer through the flashes of 50 cameras on a red carpet by playing it Continued on a following page >>

safe. Where does your inspiration for design come from? Do you design with certain people in mind? Inspiration comes from a lot of different places for me, but my mind works best when it’s a challenge. When there is a concept in mind, but I have no idea how I’m going to make it happen. One of my favorite creative creations was Lady Gaga’s octopus outfit with all the tentacles. I’ve always believed that fashion should excite, inspire, charge the imagination and make one feel like the baddest person in the room. On the runway, it should make the crowd smile and quietly say, “You better walk bitch.” Does it still do that for you? Absolutely. The way it can transform your body and your mind is so unique. The partnership between fashion and HIV/AIDS education was inevitable. STRUT is celebrating its 12 year anniversary. This will be your 3rd time showing on its runway. Your support has meant more than you can imagine. Is there a particular reason for the support? I love working with STRUT because of the important work you do for the community. Vex’s community is made up of so many diverse people from different backgrounds and different experiences. Our designs represent breaking barriers and being able to fully show up as yourself. It’s important to me as a business owner to show up and support those that need it. Well thank you Laura. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you. I’m excited about your future, and I can’t wait to see the STRUT models in your garments again. Please let everyone know how to get in touch with Vex Clothing.

You can shop all of our hand made items at and email The Vex community

only continues to grow, we’d love to hear from you. 11

ASK CHAD Business Marketing Q&A

Dear Chad, I have a small media company and I haven’t been able to fully understand how to use Google Analytics to my advantage. Can you please explain in simple terms the use and application of analytics. Also, what do I do with the analytics code after its been used? Do I always use the same one or do I need one for each application? From, Jason Hello Jason, Google Analytics is imperative for the success of your business online no matter the industry. You are provided an insight to the unique visitors to your site, pages they viewed, time spent on your site in addition to the option for call to action for purchase of goods or services. There are so many benefits to implementing Google Analytics code on to any site you manage. One you plugin your code you will be provided with data that will assist you in making ongoing decisions for your businesses ongoing success. This combined with PPC and SEO will allow for you to grow your business. You will want to generate a new Google Code for each site you have as the analytics are site specific. There is more detailed information on Google Analytics through... of course, Google. Dear Chad, I haven’t seen much results in “boosting” my Facebook ads. I have a strong following for my brand on social media, either FB isn’t showing it to my selected audience or there is way too much traffic on FB now for people to see it. I have good products and attractive ads, so I’m not sure what to do to get better results. Any suggestions? From, Laura G. Hello Laura, Make sure the ads you are displaying relate to your primary target audience. Also don’t box yourself into a corner with being too specific on your primary demographics. While it is important and honestly critical to know your target audience you

might also be eliminating the opportunity to expand your business to other areas and demographics if you are too specific when setting up your ad restrictions. Cross promote on IG as this will attract more views. Don’t oversell or over discount the product or service you are providing. This can cause a lot of the same people to potentially see your ad as a snooze to your companies advertising, in addition to cheapening your brand. Dear Chad, I’m building a new website for my business. Other than the usual graphic design elements, contact info. and offerings, are there any other important factors I should include? BTW: Is it good to show on a website that you’re an LGBT supporter? If so, what is the best terminology to use these days and what method of display (i.e. graphics)? From, Lance C. Hello Lance, Make sure your site is not only visually stunning, but also informative and easy to navigate. While information is important and the key to your site being picked up on Google you can also over-inform your potential viewers no matter the industry. Make sure you provide correct, concise information that is easy to navigate through. If you have a beautiful site that initially draws in your views, but then you can’t keep those eyes on your website you have a problem. I can’t tell you how many sites we see that might look good but are not user friendly or don’t really provide much information at all. More times than not a user will visit the home page maybe scroll down some then if they are overwhelmed or confused they will move on to the next option. There’s so much competition online nowadays that you have to be very strategic in how you are conveying your brands message. Firmly believe that anytime you are in support of a minority group it is always good to showcase this involvement on your site. Showing you are an ally might open up additional doors that may not exist otherwise. This can unfortunately work in reverse too but in my history of doing this I haven’t run into this being too much of an issue. Be proud and supportive. Chad Brittian is an experienced industry professional and CEO of NVS Design, Inc. To consult Chad for any of your business needs, call 877-578-2045 (Ext. 700) or email him at

To submit your question to Ask Chad, email him at: 13

There are a number of trends that will define the holiday season this year, as well as a whole host of challenges and opportunities that will mean retailers must stay constantly on top of things in the lead up to the end of 2021. Bain & Company predicted a 7% growth of holiday sales in 2021 and identified several opportunities for the retail sector, namely inflation rates, increased employment levels, positive wage growth, increased savings and more credit availability along with the probability of pent-up demand. However, this is countered by several sizable obstacles, most notably the ongoing shipping crisis and supply chain problems caused by the pandemic. Retailers will need to work extra hard to find solutions to problems of product unavailability and delayed shipments. This is combined with a potential fourth wave of Covid and consequent lockdowns and a general reduction in labour supply. With proper planning and an adaptable structure, however, retailers can face these challenges head on and still benefit from a profitable holiday season, particularly if they are aware of the holiday shopping trends for 2021. Which trends will impact the holiday season in retail? As the year’s biggest retail period approaches, we can expect to see a number of trends shaping the industry.

Early shoppers

Following on from last year in which, according to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales increased 8% in November compared to 2019, holiday shopping is expected to start early in 2021. This is mainly due to a general awareness of supply chain issues: consumers expect delays and, as a result, a survey by Deloitte found that shoppers are now starting to plan their holiday spending before Thanksgiving, which, along with Black Friday, has historically been the beginning of the festive period. And it’s not just customers extending the holiday season, retailers have caught on to the value of going after sales in the early stages of the period, when they can target specific segments and there is less competition. Many retailers now begin promoting holiday purchases throughout November, with promotions and advertising often beginning


just after Halloween in the UK. Early shoppers, data shows, are more likely to both spend more and make repeat purchases.

Omnichannel product discovery

With shopping high on the agenda for many around the holiday season, it’s a great time for brand and product discovery with consumers frequently getting out of their retail comfort zone and breaking their usual purchasing habits to buy gifts. With consumers spending more and more time thinking over and researching their holiday buys, they’re increasingly likely to discover and buy from brands that are new to them. This trend has been greatly encouraged by the growth in omnichannel shopping, with a survey by Criteo indicating that consumers discover products via a mixture of search engines, physical stores, brand sites and apps, retail sites and apps and online ads. There’s never been so many ways to reach potential customers, with video advertising also seeing a huge increase in success; another survey by Criteo showed that 50% of frequent users of video services purchase products and services they see in targeted video ads and 47% will recommend them to friends or family.


More than just a buzzword, sustainable retail has become a trend in its own right and shows no signs of slowing down this holiday season. Consumers, particularly Gen Z and millennials, are demanding more transparency and more environmental consciousness from brands and are willing to pay for those that align most with their values. In the CGS Retail and Sustainability Survey, more than half of U.S respondents said they would pay more for a sustainable option. A consequence of the sustainability trend is a boom in the resale and second-hand markets, with a report by ThredUp showing that 33 million people bought used clothes for the first time in 2020. This growing market is ripe for opportunity and is expected to reach $52 billion by 2023, doubling its current size. New initiatives such as subscription rental services (with US retail giants Macy’s and Urban Outfitters having launched these), buyback programs and trade-ins are becoming increasingly popular on the mainstream market and present a whole host of advantages for both retailers and consumers, as well as for the planet.


Interview with LUCKYCAT by Nicky Roland This issue I thought I’d chat with a fellow ex-pat, producer and friend of mine, LUCKYKAT. Whilst LUCKYKAT may be fairly new to the professional music scene, don’t let that fool you, he has a finger on the pulse of the underground, a trunk load of talent, and a great head for business - giving him a big leg-up in a crowded field. Lucky isn’t your average kat, as you’ll see, Lucky is far from ordinary. Which makes sense…After all, he’s a lucky kat. Hello LUCKYKAT! Before we go any further I have to ask about the name and how it came about. I taught English in Japan for 6 months and while I was there I noticed that most stores had these little gold cats by their entrance. I was told they were lucky cats & they brought great fortune to the business owners. I wanted the idea of the lucky cat to be contemporized & become part of western culture through music. A gold claw and helmet will be part of the LUCKYKAT costume. The live experience will bring fortune to my fans using some crazy ideas I want to realize. You’re originally for the UK. What brought you to the USA? I was drawn to the idea of the American Dream and being able to become anything you wanted. I also knew that there would be no language or massive cultural barriers. My wife is also from the US. I feel that because the US is such a young nation, there are so many things that can be done to improve this great nation.

Kimmel as our host! I then sold the company and wrote a book about it called Blow It Up: 21 Ways Your Startup Can Shake Up An Industry and Change the World. When did you get the music bug, and how did it happen? The bug first bit me when I was about 7 years old. My Dad who is a professional pianist sat me down and played me The White Album by The Beatles. I will never forget this moment and was drawn to his vinyls over & over, studying through listening. I was in bands as a teenager and then got a sound recording diploma from The School of Sound Recording in Manchester, England. I was then in a band in Austin, Texas where I was singer/songwriter for the first time and we recorded several demos. Although a lot of my early music inspiration had come from my friend’s rave collection, it was only last year that I learned about DAWs and how you could make electronic music with them. When I got COVID, it hit me hard and I thought I was going to die, because I have asthma, and I couldn’t breathe. As part of the year recovery period, I was in the house a lot so I taught myself how to program music and it clicked fast. I then started doing 16 hour days, learning Ableton (a computer software for making music) and producing my 1st song(s) which led to my 1st release(s). Who were some of your biggest early influences and how do they affect your music now? Hybrid Soundsystem, they inspired my use of classical instruments in electronic music. Amon Tobin, he inspired me to never have boundaries as far as genres that can influence you. Jazz, hip-hop, glitch...whatever sounds good.

In addition to producing music, you’ve been a successful tech entrepreneur, how did you get to where you are now?

Jean-Michel Jarre, for the idea that electronic music is the future & you need to be a pioneer of new sounds.

The 1st chapter was landing in Austin, Texas in 2012. I ran a successful crowdfunding campaign and launched my 1st company called Uberpong. It was an e-commerce site that created custom ping-pong paddles and the highlight over the 5 years running was directing a celebrity pingpong tournament for the LA Dodgers with Jimmy

Underworld, for creating euphoric, melody fueled anthems that bring massive crowds together as one.


The Chemical Brothers, for letting you be experimental within all the sub genres of electronic music & for creating mind blowing visuals that enhance the music.

The Prodigy, for creating a stage show that no fan would ever forget & for fusing electronic music with rock n roll & punk. Top five favorite DJs or producers right now? This is a difficult one because I think we are in a lull which has personally inspired me to make electronic music. I feel I can fill a big hole that is here at the moment. deadmau5 is my go-to not just for making me bounce but for creating music that inspires whether light or dark. A big part of my musical education is simply from critically listening to his compositions. Gesaffelstein for his music and being the first artist to use vantablack, the blackest black which has no reflective property. I am getting a lot of inspiration from Hayao Miyazaki soundtracks, CryoChamber dark ambient soundscapes & George Gershwin. If you could do a collaboration with any living artist, who would it be? Sir Paul McCartney or Noel Gallagher. It would be a coin toss! Do you have any upcoming releases, appearances or collaborations in the pipeline that you’re free to talk about? I just launched my 1st EP called DIA DE LOS MEOWTOS. It has 4 tracks: Vampire Police, Bump In The Night, Chainsaw, Phantom Noises. I have a big remix I am working on for a recent favorite producer (under wraps at the moment, sorry!). I am playing my 1st show in Phoenix, Arizona on November 8th as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week. I am planning to start live streaming my programming sessions & DJ sets from my own studio very soon. I also just launched my own label & music production company called KATNAP. What are some of the things that drive you and get you out of bed in the mornings? The fact that the overarching EDM genre needs shaking up. After the tragic recent events that occurred at a festival where an artist completely ignored their fans who were in desperate need in the crowd, I am compelled to get to that level and give fans a safer experience where they feel part of the show and closer to the artist on stage. If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be? If I could make humans more compassionate towards each other and accept their differences,

that would be a big one. I think Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a huge part of this. Finally, any shout-outs, big-ups, charity plugs or advice on other artists that we should look out for? Big thank you to my wife & kids for putting up with the hours of music everyday in the house! Keep your eyes on KATNAP for exciting up & coming electronic music producers. And big thanks to LUCKYKAT for that awesome interview. Keep an eye out for up-and-coming releases and performance dates. In the meantime, be sure to check LUCKYKAT out on your favorite music streaming or download service. You’ll be glad you did. Meanwhile… Closer to home Dawna Montell and Georgie Porgie are back with another MASSIVE TUNE!!! If you loved their 1st collaboration ‘Love Somebody,’ you’ll will be elated with their new track ‘Loving You’ This superstar duo has delivered another peak hour Jackin House anthem!!! Even Dionne is going to be HAPPY!!! You will absolutely love this track! Also, coming up, an exclusive, vinyl only 12” (name still under wraps) release from Berlin based DJ and Producer Erta Ale. Erta as some of you will know has been featured on release from DJ International, Exploited, Twirl, and many more. This latest release will be on his own label, Solenoid Records. If you’re a DJ, or just a vinyl addict, this will be a must have for your record box.

Nicky Roland is a house music producer originally from the UK, now based in Denver, CO. Find me on Spotify and on Twitter @nickyrolandmusic. 17


5 Tools to Help You Bounce Back Better by: Dr. Charla Waxman BS, MBA, EdD

Director of Business Development

How is that when something happens, some people just seem, although it clearly bothers them, to keep putting one foot in front of the other, some just fall apart at the seams and others of us somehow stay positive and almost look at the situation as another life adventure? Our feelings in these situations can range from depressed to hopeless, or to stressed, but open to problem solving and up for a challenge. The goal, of course is, that no matter what happens that you find a way to bounce back. This is called resilience……the ability to get right back up and get back to being productive and seeing life in a positive way. It also means accepting that life will have many challenges and not being in a constant state of anxiety over the “thing” that could happen. Simply put, resilience and health go hand in hand. You were probably not born with the ability to bounce back. There is no special gene that makes us more able to manage “the good, the bad and the ugly”. Genetics can determine that we may be more prone to conditions like depression and anxiety. Trauma, as well, can stop us in our tracks and diminish our resilience potential. Things like poverty, abuse and addiction in the family are additional reducers of resiliency. There is hope! There are tools


that enhance resilience; that can help you develop a better sense of self, a belief in your value and an inner sense of power and strength. With these tools in your tool belt, you’ll be a bounceback-person in no time.

Tool Number 1:

Listen to your mother! Remember when your mother, your parents, your grandma……..some positive, wise adult……told you, as a kid, to pay attention to what kind of ‘company’ you were keeping? Well, that was great advice. The more positive your relationships, the more support you will have when things go awry. The more positive the relationships, the better advice you are likely to receive. The more positive the relationships, the more potential you will have to bounce back. Positive relationships; positive people in your life, provide hope for the next best thing, remember that something good is just around the corner.

Tool Number 2:

Mind your mindfulness Tuning into the moment is one really good way to stay away from “what if’s?” Continued on a following page >>

Mindfulness helps you avoid reacting and puts you in a present state of “now” where you can examine what is in front of you. It is paying attention to feelings combined with the experience and finding a way to accept and manage when ready. It is a calming state of breathing, sensing, and finding the moment. Mindfulness is meditation in action. People who learn how to be mindful often say that they felt less anxiety and fear and more able to really think and follow through. Mindfulness helps you create a path where they may have been nowhere to walk.

of that, there is good stuff everywhere: good situations, good intentions, good people just doing good. Sure bad stuff happens, but there is always something good mixed in. Resilient people accept the bad and automatically look for the good stuff. It creates balance and provides hope. The more hope you have built into an issue the more solutions you will find. Living in the negative is a problem solving blocker. Finding any positive in a situation, even a small one, is a flicker of hope that things can change. Find resilience by looking for the good stuff.

Tool Number 3:

Tool Number 5:

Be your own best friend You may have noticed that you are better to others than you are to yourself. You’ll tell your friends that they are smart, and genuine, and kind. You may have been wronged by a friend and offered forgiveness. Do you ever look at yourself in a way transparent enough to reveal your assets? If you make a mistake, do you judge yourself and think about it as an unforgiveable blunder? Being your own best friend and being accepting of yourself, identifying your assets and letting some things go, can move you toward becoming a more resilient person. People who don’t like themselves very much don’t often bounce back when things go wrong because they are simply, stuck. Find your way back to the kind, genuine, and smart person that you are!

Tool Number 4:

Look for the good stuff Yes, there is bad stuff everywhere: bad situations, bad intentions, bad people just doing bad. Phew. It was hard just writing that; because on the other side

Change is a constant Resilence means that no matter what happens, you will keep taking the next step. Sometimes your feet will feel heavy, like you are just dragging them along, but keep moving forward. Don’t be resistant; roll with it. It will take some of the stress out of the situation. Rely on friends and family (remember those positive people we talked about earlier?), let them help you. Change is not easy. Resilient people talk it out, write it out (journal) or find help if the going gets too tough. At Lake Behavioral Hospital, we work to help people find resilience in their lives. If you find that you are just stuck and you can’t seem to feel good about things in your life and problem solving seems impossible, a confidential, free level of care assessment can help determine just what kind of support you need to feel better. Please call us 24/7/365, we are always available and ready to help. A call to 855.990.1900 would be the best way to help you bounce back better! 23

LOVE OUT LOUD A Conversation with Suzy Patz

By Joey Amato

If you were to look at Suzy Patz, you wouldn’t initially be intimidated, small stature, a big smile on her face, but if you knew what she’s been through, what she’s overcome, and what she’s doing now, you might just call her iconic. The Davis, California native took an unconventional road to starting her business, Love Out Loud. Imagine for a moment the possibilities if you were able to reset your mind. The intrusive fear and powerful doubt that incessantly increases over time to protect ourselves from possible failure, would suddenly disappear. An immunity from hesitation to live your life. I have never known anyone that has experienced change or growth quite like this until I spoke with Suzy Patz. The idea for Love Out Loud was born from this fearless mindset. The spark that lit the flame came from an early morning interaction in 2019 with a sarcastic valet in Los Angeles who may have also been moonlighting on weekends as a comedian (The Comedy Union club IS just down the street). “Smuggling a body?” the valet asked upon seeing the enormous size of Patz’s suitcase and hearing that she had only stayed for one night. “Bodies.” Patz returned, smiling. “I was so nervous about a speaking engagement that day and with that one unexpected, totally off-color comment, he completely lifted those nerves.” Patz tipped the valet $20. “He then ran up, knocking on the window of my car to let me know I’d tipped him $20. When I told him it was intentional, he was so surprised, he thanked me profusely, and offered to run to get me a coffee at Starbucks!”


Patz recognized the incredible power, in that moment, they both had to positively impact each other’s lives. “We so often like the posts on social media of people doing good, our hearts swell as we watch the videos, but as we go about our regular days, get caught in the grind, we forget. We forget to connect with each other, create those little, simple moments that have such a big impact.” says Patz. “That interaction was my a-ha moment.” The mission of Love Out Loud is to change the conversation people have with themselves. To help people see each other as opportunities for kindness, not obstacles to move around. It is an idea born without fear, without doubt, with endless possibilities, from a woman who believes we can change the world one small act at a time through gifts familiar to all of us, kindness, community, and love. “We will do this by providing a mobile application experience that includes one of the most current and effective forms of encouraging connection and interaction globally. We are here to positively and significantly impact how people see themselves, those around them, and empower a nonprofit’s ability to generate donations and visibility with ongoing engagement.” Only from tragedy do true flames rise. What the valet hadn’t known was the reason WHY Patz’s suitcase was so large. “A year and a half earlier I had suffered brain damage. I went out for a run and a young man, who was distracted driving, hit me with his car. Two brain hematomas and a cracked skull. It has been a difficult and long recovery. The huge suitcase was because of my challenge with sleep. I take a large fluffy blanket with me everywhere! But again, he didn’t know that, and it was actually nice to have someone make the giant suitcase situation funny…because it was!”

Brain injury was a life reset for Patz. She came out a different person. “I was still me on some levels, but with a drive I’ve never known before. With a purpose I had never realized before. I now understood how to get things done and keep going when things got tough. I went from hiding behind a desk, to speaking in front of groups of up to 500 people. Nothing stops me now. I was given the chance to be reborn at 41 years old. I took it and have been running with it ever since.” This year, the goal of Love Out Loud is to partner with over 100 charities nationwide and create a community of 24,000 people. Patz has had conversations with festival organizers to bring her disruptive community of goodness and infuse upcoming outdoor events this summer. At such a perfect time, too, as things are opening and people need a little additional support in re-learning how to interact with each other again! Love Out Loud will also be engaging the local and favorite charities in the communities for these events. The ripple just continues. Love Out Loud creates an open source for everyone to find causes they want to give back to all in one place, virtually, an App Store for nonprofits. “Often when people donate, they immediately go to charities they are familiar with, out of convenience or even habit. Love Out Loud will provide visibility to LGBTQ charities that may previously have been underserved or not on someone’s radar.” “We are big believers that love is love. As a gamified goodness app, we are finding our main audience is Gen Z and Millennials. They are the most diverse generations in American history and are consistently pushing for inclusion and diversity in brands and companies. These generations will be the true heroes for LGBTQ inclusion and community, and we are happy we can give these changemakers a platform that allows them to further their message.” Each time someone posts their good deed in the Love Out Loud app, the company gives money to charity. The company then tallies all the charity totals at the

end of each month and sends a check to the respective organizations. “A question everyone seems to have is ‘where does the money come from’. Fortunately, we aren’t the only ones passionate about spreading the good.” Love Out Loud is funded by people who want to see good go global, both individual and corporate parties. In fact, you can give on their website at any time, or reach out to Love Out Loud if you want to be a part of their mission, check out their website at LGBTQ charities looking to be a part of Love Out Loud can reached them by email at Every charity represented will be confirmed through Benevity, a company that has vetted over 2 million nonprofits worldwide. As Patz reflects on the past few years of her life, she recognizes the gifts she’s been given. Four years prior to brain damage, she was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, resistant to chemo, that only 3% of the population will get, triple negative breast cancer. “It was a great challenge and it set me up for the strength I would need to get through the months/years after brain damage. I am grateful for both. In fact, it’s because of brain damage, getting hit by a car, that I’m able to do what I’m doing now.” 25

delays. It’s easy in this sort of situation to get complacent and not thoroughly check the legitimacy of online stores and offers, but there’s no more important time to be diligent than now. Be sure all your devices are up to date, especially IoT devices on your home or business network that could be used as part of a botnet or otherwise compromised. The usual scams have only been amplified by a massive turn to online shopping due to the pandemic. All these things have driven more people than ever to shop online, buy online, and that presents an opportunity for attackers and bad guys. Supply chain interruptions have only widened the peak fraud time window for many attackers, who are keeping up with consumers who have started shopping earlier. In addition to starting early, many parents are in a desperate position in 2021... Will the toy their child wants even be available? In terms of specific threats this year, two stand out. Card not present fraud, and non-delivery scams. Card not present fraud takes advantage of situations where a transaction can be run without possession of a physical card, while non-delivery scams are probably common to anyone who has an email address. They’re those phishy-looking emails you get from “FedEx” about a package you weren’t expecting being undeliverable. There’s a common thread between those two common frauds. They’re variations on phishing themes, as are fake websites offering hard-to-find toys and gifts. Some of the most unsophisticated, yet elegant, hacks have been perpetrated using social engineering. Pair that with over five billion sets of credentials and stolen bits of personally identifiable information available on the Dark Web and you have a serious risk for individuals and businesses alike that only gets worse during a time of year where people are spending money with their guards down. It’s going to be a rough year, especially with potential product shortages and shipping


Be wary of unsolicited text messages or emails saying you have a delayed package or that they have a special offer. Those sorts of messages are almost always scams. Instead of clicking on a link in a message or email, go directly to the website the sender purports to be from, or call the business directly to ensure you’re speaking to the right people Customer service agents should never ask for personally identifiable information. If someone does, don’t give it out and ideally hang up the phone or close the chat window. Use a digital wallet instead of inputting your bank or credit card info directly on a website, even a trusted one. PayPal,, and other products provide such services and are trustworthy and safe to use. Engage the services of a credit monitoring agency for the holidays, or keep an eye on your credit history and bank statements yourself to be sure nothing seems amiss. iPhones have a built-in service (which is also available from third-party apps) that will notify you when a set of your credentials is exposed on the Dark Web. Use one of those apps, or your phone’s built-in service, and don’t ignore a popup on your device that informs you that you’ve been compromised. Instead, take action by changing the password on that account and any that have the same combination of username and password. Lastly, this holiday season especially merits a sense of caution. Be aware of tactics used by shady retailers or deals that look like they’re too good to be true. It’s probably some kind of scam and you’re just going to spend more time being frustrated and trying to untangle the mess of a stolen identity.”


by Jack Santo

Put a holographic Santa in your yard

Your yard-Santa could sing and dance. What’s cooler: an inflatable plastic yardSanta that just, well, stands there, or a fully animated holographic Santa who looks real and sings Christmas carols? That’s the kind of high-tech effect you should be thinking about this Christmas. And you can get one for surprisingly cheap: AtmosFX sells a variety of really cool Christmas-themed animations, with prices starting at just $6. Options range from the aforementioned singing Santa to virtual Christmas trees to picturesque winter-wonderland scenes. You’ll need a projector and depending on the animation, you’ll also need an open wall space, a sheet of sheer fabric or a life-size prop for the yard.

Decorate your car with Christmas lights

Driving in a holiday parade? Heading to a Christmas tailgate party? Whatever the occasion, consider tricking out your vehicle the way you do your tree: with festive lights! Just make sure to check with local law enforcement, because it may be illegal to actually drive around with your car all lit up.

Install flickering-flame bulbs

Give your lights a “classic-Christmas” look with an animated LED-flame bulb. Nothing says “old-school holidays” like flickering candles, the kind you might set in your windows or even your outside light fixtures. Of course, real candles aren’t exactly outdoor-friendly, and they’re a messy fire-hazard indoors. Enter flickering-flame bulbs, which simulate a candle or even a small torch. These work just like regular bulbs, screwing into a standard E26 base and displaying an actual animated flame. (That’s in contrast to bulbs that merely have flame-shaped filaments; these actually flicker and dance just like the real deal.) An Amazon search for “LED flickering flame bulb” reveals a lot of very similar-looking products, most of them priced around $30.

Get smart about lights

Do your Christmas lights just, um, light? You can do better. For example, the Light Rhapsody is a 25-foot, 24-bulb strand of LEDs you can control using any Alexa-compatible device. For example, you can tell Alexa to turn all the bulbs green, adjust the brightness or blink the lights in tune with music (played via Amazon Music, natch). They run about $60 per strand, and you can link 3-4 at a time depending on which Echo device you own. These may look like standard holiday LEDs, but the Light Rhapsody strand pairs via Bluetooth with your Amazon Echo, meaning you can control it with voice commands. The Light Rhapsody is designed for indoor use; if you want something for outside, check out Lumenplay’s app-controlled C7 lights. A starter kit with 12 bulbs sells for $60; 24- and 12-bulb expander strings cost $80 and $50, respectively. The Lumenplay lights work like most indoor smart bulbs you’ve seen. You can program them to display virtually any colors, set up different themes and scenes, pulse the lights to music and so on.

Stake out a laser projector

By now you’ve seen these, well, everywhere. Unlike old-school holiday projectors, which might cast a smiling Santa on your garage door, these laser-powered modern models bathe nearly your entire house in red and green, everything from simple points of light to animated snowflakes. It’s certainly an easier way to decorate than stringing up lights, and you get more “mileage” from one projector than you would from several strands of bulbs. This can be a pretty inexpensive option, too: The 1byone Christmas Laser Light Projector, for example, currently sells for just $20. It covers your house in red laser “stars” and green Christmas trees, and it automatically shuts off after six hours and then turns on again after 18. 29

Online vs In-store: trends pushing customer behaviour

Undoubtedly, the pandemic gave the already booming e-commerce industry a boost, particularly in the holiday season, with data from Criterio showing online sales up 22% year over year in December 2020 - a new record. The increase in e-commerce shows no signs of slowing down and online sales are expected to be high this holiday season: in July 2021 global e-commerce sales were 24% higher than in 2019, comprising a 35% increase in the Americas, 18% in EMEA and 22% in Asia Pacific. Brick and mortar shops have traditionally been at war with online retailers. Recently, however, the two have put aside their weapons and begun working in harmony. One interesting pandemic consequence was the role reversal of online and in-store shopping: since being in a physical store was not allowed, digital shopping adapted to help consumers replicate the in-store experience at home. Customers enjoyed features such as augmented reality fitting rooms and customised virtual recommendations from sales associates via retailers’ increasingly sophisticated apps and websites. Shops, on the other hand, became the site of one of 2020’s biggest retail trends: Buy Online Pick Up in Store.

Curbside Pickup and ‘Buy Online Pickup In Store’ (BOPIS)

Convenience has always been a priority for consumers, a fact that has been reinforced by the lasting popularity of the curbside pickup and BOPIS pandemic trends. As restrictions limited in-store shopping throughout 2020, Click and Collect sales almost doubled last year compared to 2019. The trend is predicted to keep growing in 2021 even as pandemic restrictions ease, as consumers continue with their newly developed shopping habits; National Retail Federation data showed that 70% of customers said that this style of shopping improved their experience as it was more convenient. As a consequence, however, consumers are often extending their holiday purchasing until just days before Christmas, with last-minute gift buying peaking on


December 23 of last year, putting extra pressure on retailers to have their websites running smoothly and their logistics ready to adapt. With a new reality blossoming, both online and in-store shopping have an important part to play in the customer experience. With pandemic consequences still having serious effects, customer behaviour is reflecting the unpredictability of the times and, as a result, having an omnichannel strategy is increasingly vital for retailers.

The ‘phygital’ trend

The 2021 holiday season is expected to show an increase in the ‘phygital’ retail trend, aka using technology to bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds, primarily via omnichannel experiences. Incorporating ‘phygital’ technology in-store allows customers to have the best of both worlds: the convenience of online shopping combined with great in-store experiences, and is being employed by some of the key industry players as a strategy to get customers back into shops. Examples of the new technology include in-store QR codes to help customers learn more about the products in-store, smart selfcheckout, which allows them to skip paying with a cashier altogether, online inventory checks and even queue monitors, which let people book their spot in the line to pay before they’ve even entered the store. It is undeniable that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the way consumers all over the world are shopping. The unpredictability of the past 18 months paired with the ever-growing global ecommerce market has highlighted several definitive retail trends that are most strongly present during the industry’s busiest period: the holiday season. With customers expecting more and more convenience and the line between the physical and digital worlds becoming increasingly blurred, it is highly likely that the new behaviours and attitudes in retail caused by the pandemic will continue into the future. As the industry is continually impacted by the effects of the shipping crisis and the ever-present possibility of more lockdowns and restrictions, it’s vital that retailers prepare properly and are ready to adapt to whatever the holiday season may throw at them in 2021.


Voyage Album & High-Tech Concert in 2022 the strangest and most spectacular concert you could ever dream of. We’re going to be able to sit back in an audience and watch our digital selves perform our songs on a stage in a custom-built arena in London next spring. Weird and wonderful!” Voyage is Abba’s first studio album since The Visitors, which was released in November of 1981, hitting the #1 spot in the UK, Sweden and five other countries. The album was one of the earliest albums in history to be released Abba has been one of the most on, the then, new CD format. Voyage successful pop groups of all time, they reciently release their new studio album also comes nearly five decades after the band’s debut album Ring Ring, released Voyage, releasing their first album in in 1973. nearly 40 years. Details of Voyage were announced early in September, along with Abba's Voyage, a new concert that will show Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid performing "digitally" with a live 10piece band, in a specially built Abba arena at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London from May 27th 2022.

As with all previous Abba studio albums, Voyage was written and produced by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, their arrangements and lyrics complemented through the unmistakable and timeless vocals of Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad.

Following the announcement of the brand-new album, ABBA broke Universal’s record making it the fastest ever pre-order of all time in the UK in just three days with over 80K copies sold.

Much of the programming and mixing was undertaken by Benny, with the album also featuring the Stockholm Concert Orchestra.

The band commented at the time: “It’s been a while since we made music together. Almost 40 years, actually. We took a break in the spring of 1982 and now we’ve decided it’s time to end it. They say it’s foolhardy to wait more than 40 years between albums, so we’ve recorded a follow-up to “The Visitors”. To tell the truth, the main inspiration to record again comes from our involvement in creating


The new album saw the four members of the original group head back into Benny’s studio Riksmixningsverket in Stockholm, Sweden over a four-year period to record the ten songs that feature on the album. These include ‘I Still Have Faith In You’, and ‘Don’t Shut Me Down’, the first two songs to be recorded in these new sessions, and that will both feature in the Abba Voyage concert alongside a set-list of the band’s greatest hits.

Talking about the album release, Benny Andersson says: “We knew if there was a show, we would need a couple of new songs to go with it…When we got into the studio after 39 years it was like no time had passed...we had a great time. I speak to Frida and Agnetha, and know they’re extremely happy having done this.” Anni-Frid Lyngstad continues: “Those first sessions back in 2018 were such fun and when Benny called and asked if I’d consider singing some more, I jumped at it! And what songs!! My respect and love go out to these exceptionally talented, truly genius songwriters! Such joy it was to work with the group again. I am so happy with what we have made, and I dearly hope our fans feel the same.”

Photo Credit: Baillie Walsh

Agnetha Fältskog adds: “When we got back together in the studio, I had no idea what to expect… But Benny’s recording studio is such a friendly and safe environment, and before I knew it I was really enjoying myself! I can hardly believe that finally, the moment has come to share this with the world!” Björn Ulvaeus ends: “...So now we have ten songs, a whole album, called Voyage, because it’s been a voyage, into uncharted territory.There must be something with the combination of Frida and Agnetha that makes that unique sound, when they started singing, it was ABBA.” 33