Episode 26: Meet Renee Labbe, Design Forecaster and Founder of LABBE

Today I finally got to sit down for a chat with Renee Labbe. I say finally, as Renee and I have been chasing each other for months. Renee is originally from Canada but operates both her businesses out of Los Angeles.

Renee is a Design Forecaster. In fact, before I had this conversation, I didn’t even know this job existed! For the past 20 years, she has been bobbing all over the world defining the next trends and influencing fashion, automotive, architecture and interior design brands.

Renee is also the founder of a new über-cool 100% plant based and ocean-friendly skin care brand : LABBE, for surfers and ocean lovers. You may have spotted her glorious black bottles on Instagram and around trendy stores in LA.

Listen to the episode here:

Renée with her iconic black surfboard shaped by Guy Okazaki


My chat with Renee is a fascinating conversation. We talk about her design forecasting job and get find out what a design forecaster is, what happens behind the scenes before the magazines and the reporters pick new trends up and how to use this information.

We talk about how trend forecasting works, why you need an artsy and analytical mindset and I pick Renee’s brains on the architectural trends that are going to be the next big thing in the years to come.

According to Renee, the next big trends in Architecture are the Gabled Modern and Entanglement. Here’s what she has to say about these trends:

“(The Gabled Modern) is basically the silhouette of a house that you would draw if you were a little kid. It’s a very simple style of home and the silhouette is very simple. If you think of, let’s say, United States architecture, a lot of homes have what we call a very detailed elevation or cut up roofline where there’s multiple pitches and gables to each piece of the roof , (…) sort of MacMansions. These homes have a lot of curb appeal that shows off how wealthy the person must be, and who lives there because there’s so much going on on the front of the house. And that definitely used to be a big thing. But the Gabled modern is sort of the antithesis of that. A lot of times it’s one material for the entire silhouette of the house including the roof. And often in the same color.

And after the gabled modern, for me the next trend that I like to talk about a lot is one I call entanglement which I look at it as an extension of what biophilic design is right now. So “biophilic” is a term that basically describes designing more nature into your environment or more natural aspects into your environment. And for me, entanglement is the extension of that. Where I feel like we’re seeing more designed cues and style cues where the built and the natural environments almost look like they’re literally growing together. It’s almost like our built environments are becoming more entwined to look more like nature. And for me that’s a really important trend.”

But Renee’s story is also a story of transformation through the ocean. A few years ago, Renee decided to step down from her highly demanding , 70 hour-a-week job and found solace in the ocean.

“In those challenging times, someone said to me “In order for you to heal, you need to go to the ocean”” — Renee Labbe

And then about eight months after that, I had gone on a trip to the Virgin Islands and I had spent about a week in the ocean. (…) At the end of the trip I remember standing in the water and realizing how good I felt and how I’d probably never felt that good in my entire life.”

In a flukey way, she acknowledged the therapeutical effects of the ocean. One thing lead to another, and surfing became a part of her life…

“I wanted to connect with the ocean. As much as I was craving (to return to the Virgin Islands), I was going to have to get in a wetsuit and experience Los Angeles water temperatures in the wintertime. So. I thought, if I’m going to put on a wetsuit, that means I have to learn to surf. (…) I caught my first wave and I rode it all the way the beach and stepped off on the sand as beginners always do. And I turned around and looked at my coach and he said “I know that look, you’re addicted”. And he was right.”

The creation of LABBE face oil brand was serendipitous too:

“My sister who still lives in Canada started to become interested in essential oils and skincare (…) and would text me every now and then and what she would uncover a new oil that she was really passionate about. (…) This one day she texted me and, I, just in this perfect moment, happened to be at Whole Foods in front of the skin care essential oils section. And I happened to be out of face oil at home. So I thought “OK I’m going to listen to her I’m going to get a couple of these things”...”

Renee made a homemade soothing, organic and 100% natural apres-surf face oil to apply directly on salty skin. This was the foundation of her stylish skin care brand for surfers and ocean lovers : LABBE which is now based in Venice Beach, California.

“This one day I happened to be standing in the parking lot at the beach after a surf. And I’ve just been out with a few other people and so we’re all standing around the parking lot having a chat and my friends kind of got a little close up to me and a good look at me. She said “you know you have so much salt around the edge of your nose it looks like maybe you were having a different kind of fun”. And I was like “Well that’s absolutely not appropriate!” I was about to go to a meeting right after this. And I happened to have some of the oil in my car. So I just quickly grabbed it and put it on my face and a couple minutes later I’m driving out of the lot. And I kept thinking “Wait, what’s going on here?” and I looked in the mirror and I realized that my skin was really hydrated and it was as if I had never been in the ocean in the first place.”

Renée’s story is a really interesting one not only for the transformational journey that begun when she fell in love with the ocean, but also because of the fascinating things we learn about trend setting.

If you would like to get your hands on Renee’s apres-surf oil, you can on www.thelabbe.com. You can also follow LABBE on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/thelabbe/

I hope you enjoy listening to this conversation as much as I did recording it.

This episode wouldn’t have been put together without the help of my newest recruit : Isabella Blanca Palangan who is a wizard at putting podcasts together and making this episode sound great! You rock Isabella!

And, of course, it wouldn’t have been possible without the time that my enchanting guest Renee took to make this episode. Thank you Renee you’re welcome back any time!

Thanks guys for listening.

Until next week, take care, have fun and enjoy the waves!




About the Oceanriders Podcast

The Oceanriders Podcast is a passion project and I would like to thank you all for listening to my weekly conversations. It really makes my day to see the number of listeners on the rise.

I you would like to join me for an episode, or if you know anyone who would like to share their story please reach out to me on Instagram @theoceariderspodcast or via email at hello@theoceanriderspodcast.com.

If you would like to support my podcast, you can:

  • First, you can help by telling your friends, your family or any fellow surfers about the podcast. Adding a few stars or a review on Apple Podcasts helps too. But ultimately, spreading the word is the easiest way to help.
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Find me online at www.theoceanriderspodcast.com or on Linktree: www.linktr.ee/theoceanriderspodcast



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Imi Barneaud

Imi Barneaud


My name is Imi Barneaud and I am a surfer, a mum and an entrepreneur. My podcast is a series of weekly conversations with surfers about careers.