Christmas is a key season for western retailers and there is a huge market for Festive collections. But how can you keep your designs fresh for the same festival year after year?
Christmas is the big festive closing of each year and inspires consumers to go all out to celebrate the holiday season. It is the most elaborate of Western festivals - involving multiple days of rituals and decor, leading up to gift exchanges on 25th December. With family & friends popping in at home, Christmas becomes the biggest festival for home decor as well.
This festive enthusiasm facilitates an entire market for special themed products for Christmas, which go beyond simple decoration items. Homes are specially dressed for the festival - changing to Xmas themed cushions, curtains, doormats and setting a thematic table for the main meal.
Due to the vast population of Christians across the world & a likability for Christmas even by non-christians, most countries celebrate the festival nowadays. Which means most retailers carry Christmas themed products for the festive season sales. Including your existing clients.
Since you are already connected to your buyer/client, this can be a very easy gateway for you to expand your presence in their stores. You already understand the market, the aesthetic & the company's look. You can use this knowledge to offer festive designs to them.
On the other hand, present a striking Christmas collection to a new buyer and get your first order from them (which could lead to more from your all-year collections).
Seems like a win-win ? It could be. But are you equipped for designing Christmas collections ? While the first few designs may come easily, you could quickly run into a problem of design fatigue.
Christmas is a very very visual festival. You are not depicting a feeling/emotion here that can be translated in many directions. Most of Christmas designing centers on signature Christmas motifs that consumers identify with. And they can only be twisted in so many ways - Santa, snowflakes, reindeers & elves cannot be traded for summer, cats & fairies. The elements of Christmas have carried on since centuries and will continue to symbolize the Xmas sentiment. Which begs the first question.
Why do we need new designs every year?
Why will the consumer bother purchasing new items for a centuries-old festival ? Why cant they simply re-use their family heirlooms ? Why would retailers bother creating new designs year after year, instead of using past stock ?
There are two main reasons for the reinvention of Christmas every year.
The first is from the consumers end. As years progress, the consumer mindset and shopping pattern changes. We don't dress, shop, live like the 1960's or 1990's anymore, so our Christmas decor must align with the new lifestyle we have created. As trends change in home decor, the same flow down to our Christmas selections for the year as well. For example, sustainability has grown as a macro consumer trend in the past 5 years and is showing in Christmas trends for this year.
The second comes from the market. Retailers & the industry need the consumer to want more. If designs don't evolve & are not pitched as the new "it" item, shoppers will stop coming to the market. By creating an attractive offering and something new for the eyes, the industry is luring people to upgrade and stay on trend. Numbers also support this reason. With holiday bonuses & buoyant spirits, shoppers spend the most in this season - sprucing up their homes, shopping for gifts and spending at sales.
To design a festive collection, we must break down the visual story. If we say the word "Christmas", certain images and scenes come to one's mind immediately. These form the essence of Christmas - almost like an unspoken language across the world. A Dutch native might not know English, but will be able to identify with a christmas wreath in an American store.
The inspiration for Christmas designs come from few motifs, that can be divided into the following categories :
- Characters - Santa, Snowman, Nutcracker, Elves, Rudolf the Reindeer, Gnomes
- Objects - Snowflakes, Tree, Tree decor & balls, Wreaths, Mittens, Gift boxes
- Wordplay - Merry Christmas, Joy, Ho Ho Ho, Noel, Let it Snow
Then we have the classic woven designs -Checks & Plaids, and white thread embroidery (running stitch, applique or emboss).
There is also a category of motifs inspired by local beliefs. There are some motifs only known in Scandinavia (part of their folklore) but unrecognizable for Americans. If you are targeting a specific region/buyer, you must research on the motifs prominent in their areas.
This research will also give you greater understanding of how motifs are used in various markets. While reindeer may be a common motif, the Swedish reindeer is completely different from the Italian reindeer styling.
So how do you reinvent these designs year after year ? While the motifs may give us certain directives about how they look, a lot is also left to the imagination of the designer. While a snowflake may have 6 or 8 sides, it is up to the designer how he plays with the snowflake motif - thick or thin lines, heavy centre, sharp or curved.
Here are 3 cushions - inspired by the Christmas tree. Despite the same starting point, we can see how designers have given the motif their own twist.
A designer is truly tested in a Christmas collection because they have to apply new perspective to the same motifs every year and make them fresh. Helping them along this process are Christmas trends.
Christmas Trends are predicted looks and directions for the market in the upcoming season. Taking the input of these trends will make your job easier as you will be able to determine which direction you want to take your motifs in.
So how can you gauge next Christmas Trends ?
The main trick to create new designs for Christmas is to analyse home trends at a macro level. See what else is working in the market - what are the main trends currently in the market, where is the consumer mood at.
Every shopper keeps his home in mind while making purchases - they will contemplate whether the cushion matches their sofa, whether the table runner color will wash out their dining table wood. So retailers are going to be making their B2B purchases as per the general home decor trends in their region. If Minimalism is trending as a style, we will see stores carrying minimalist inspired Christmas creations to match with the consumer's aesthetic.
Just as you design with new trends for your summer & winter collections, you must keep the same in mind for Christmas collections too.
Let's break it down with 2 examples - one trending since last few years, and the other triggered by the Pandemic.
1. Farmhouse Theme
Origin : In 2014, Chip and Joanna Gaines became famous for their show Fixer Upper, where they often showcased farmhouse style interiors. This got widespread attention and the Farmhouse style became very popular in homes. It fits into an array of styles - from industrial to french, making it a versatile and easy trend.
Currently : We have moved to a Modern Farmhouse style now, using a neutral palette of washed whites, midcentury modern blacks & grays. The essence of Farmhouse style is rustic - raw wood, simple woven checks, retro fonts and handcrafted decor. We see a lot of this look in retail since the past 4 years.
Impact on Christmas : Most farmhouse elements have come into Christmas and completely changed the palette from the traditional red & green. Neutral decor has become a key look for the festive season in recent years - as designers are playing with white-on-white and frosted finishes.
Bold wordplay appears on cushions & as overall patterns in table linen. Black and White checks have been adopted into designs. The rustic spirit has been embodied in finishing touches - edges can be frayed or unstitched, with jute, burlap and linen bases.
2. Nostalgic Theme
Origin : COVID-19 has caused massive upheaval in our lives and made us appreciate the small things in life. As physical distancing increased, people came closer and connected with loved ones. Through tumultuous times, families and grandparents have provided the cocoon for younger generations - comforting them and connecting them to their heritage.
Currently : With job losses and a looming recession, people stopped shopping afresh and began digging out past heirlooms to renovate their home spaces. We are seeing a massive wave of Nostalgic trends in the market right now, with consumers craving for old-school designs that remind them of the comfort they feel when they remember their grandparents.
Impact on Christmas : While there was no sign of nostalgic decor before March 2020, we can see a heavy swing towards this trend as we head into Christmas. Most population spent this year reconnecting with family, and will be choosing to spend the holiday with them. People are dusting up old attics and looking for boxes of old-fashioned tree decor.
Old school greeting cards, handmade with love, grandma's crochet blankets and preserved memories will play a big role in this design direction. The colors will gravitate towards traditional red & greens, and local-folk palettes.
TEXILIST TIP : Because of the turmoil this year due to lockdowns and skewed orders, this trend has not been fully utilized in 2020. Which means that we will definitely be seeing this trend for Christmas 2021 as well. COVID-19 is extending into next year, and even if the vaccine reaches everyone before Christmas 2021, family connections will continue to nurture this nostalgic trend.
To sum it up, designing for the same festival year after year is no small challenge. There is a limitation of motifs, patterns, and stereotypical expectations from consumers - who want the classic warmth of Christmas, but in a new bottle. But if you apply our advice, you can definitely bring something new to the table.
Harness trends and research your market. Understand which macro trend is becoming a consumer habit (like minimalism) and how you can adapt your designs and colors for it. Play around with colors - take a risk and introduce a color into your palette that is gaining popularity (like Navy blue in 2020). Style your motifs as per design trends (like face line art can be applied to Xmas characters). Your whole collection doesn't have to be a risk - but showing innovation in some designs can propel you forward.
Christmas is a great market for targeting western audiences, and if you are able to offer new designs, it can be a game changer for your business.
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