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The Essence of Cocooning : It's a Desire for a Cozy, Perfect Environment Far From the Influences of a Madding World

August 07, 1987|BETH ANN KRIER | Times Staff Writer

They used to dance at private clubs, dine out five or six nights a week and take in every movie remotely worth seeing. Yoga classes, meditation groups, horseback riding, scuba diving--you name it, they did it.

Today, say Orson Mozes and Christen Brown, "a great evening for us is a night on the house."

Instead of eating out, they dine in--on meals prepared by a resident housekeeper and made with vegetables and herbs grown in their own garden. Meditation and yoga exercises are performed at their Brentwood home, often followed by a dip in the Jacuzzi. And the couple confines moviegoing to occasional private screenings at friends' homes or viewing videocassettes on a VCR.

Scuba diving and horseback riding have been dropped in favor of at-home massage sessions, provided by a mobile masseur. "And if we want to go dancing," Mozes explains, "we go into Taylor's room and put on 'Old MacDonald Had a Farm' and dance with our son."

Reorganized Businesses

Since the birth of Taylor 2 1/2 years ago, Mozes and Brown (both of whom own their own Beverly Hills firms) have reorganized their businesses so they can each work from their home two days a week. To reduce time spent taking their child on recreational outings, they turned their backyard into a park and even hired a pony to perform there for Taylor's last birthday party. (The ploy, Brown admits, insured that the children of similarly time-conscious parents would show up.)

Despite all this time at home, Mozes, 35, and Brown, 42, maintain that they have not mentally retreated from the world in the slightest. "We're highly active in the world. This is how we regenerate," Brown says, "and make time for our careers, for our family and for ourselves. It's a very loving thing to do."

Mozes and Brown, married for six years, are advanced practitioners of cocooning. That's the term coined by New York trend maven Faith Popcorn to describe the growing popularity of what used to be known as simply staying home, holing up, nesting, being a homebody.

But, of course, now that the baby boomers are finally doing it, there's a twist.

"It (cocooning) is a rapidly accelerating trend toward insulating oneself from the harsh realities of the outside world and building the perfect environment to reflect one's personal needs and fantasies," maintains Popcorn, a trend forecaster and marketer based in New York City. Through her firm, BrainReserve, she periodically surveys about 2,000 consumers to research her predictions.

The first suggestion of the home-focused phenomenon emerged in her data in 1984. By late 1985 she was convinced it would become a trend not a short-lived fad. Today, she says, "We think more individuals will make purchases that provide control, comfort and security against what they perceive as a harsh outside world. Anything you can make that is easy and secure, warm and available, you can market to their cocoon."

Some of her favorite examples: gourmet frozen foods, soft furniture such as Barcaloungers, investment services, big cookies and other "mom foods" that remind consumers of adolescence.

"There's a tremendous fear of environmental destruction," adds Popcorn, zeroing in on what she feels is one of the trend's more unpleasant roots. "This year it's starting to grow among average people and before they step forward to fix (problems of the environment), they're going to step back. They feel they can't control the environment: dumping sites, water going bad, garbage issues, herpes, AIDS, cancer, the ozone layer."

The downside to cocooning, in Popcorn's view, is that consumers are becoming less involved in social and political issues.

Although she expects a countertrend (consumer rallying, environmental concern, political involvement) to begin by 1989, Popcorn figures cocooning is good for at least three more years in all parts of the country.

Though it's more obvious among yuppies who can afford to bring increasingly exotic conveniences into their homes, the trend is also practiced by consumers who curl up with "Wheel of Fortune," send out for Domino's pizzas and flip through Sears catalogues.

Popcorn's found the only group not really big on the whole thing is the "over-60 group--they don't want to stay home, they want to get out."

Similar Conclusions

Other market research organizations have come to similar conclusions on increased activity on the home front.

"We've been talking about it for six years," says Susan Hayward, a vice president with Yankelovich Clancy Shulman, a marketing and social research firm based in Westport, Conn. "We think it particularly affects younger people."

Developments that contribute to the trend as identified by the Yankelovich group include:

--Baby boomers finally beginning to have children.

--The development and use of home-based technological devices.

--The maturation of the women's movement ("Women have decided that although work is still very important that there are definite benefits to roles such as wife, mother and good home manager").

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