AmericasMart is so big I never really feel like I’ve seen the whole thing, even though I walked and talked until my feet AND throat were so sore I couldn’t do any more. Don’t tell me I’m getting older; I am always reminded since my birthday regularly arrives during the Mart each January.
The hallways definitely didn’t seem overcrowded this year, but the show was plenty busy. I am also happy to say the manufacturers that I met with seemed pretty optimistic.
My formal take-away from this year’s show was that there were ‘no new themes.’ Really. Every showroom had variations on the same themes, some of the same themes, or a different cross-section of the same themes on different products.
The following are the thematic trends seen EVERYWHERE:
- Recycled – Refurbished – Rustic Chic (with loads of Burlap!)
- French – Paris
- Pets – Cats and Dogs
- Patterns – With chevrons, fleur de leis and paisleys
- Birds – While this theme saw owls coming on strong the last two years, now it’s a full-fledged Hitchcock level parade of seagulls, ravens, flamingos, peacocks, penguins, chickadees, and of course, the proverbial roosters!
- Words — Both humorous and inspirational words were on all types of product. Some utilized type only, and others mixed the words with images. And there was still lots of chalk boards. I picked up two chalk-board inspired catalogs, from totally different companies. You’d have thought their art directors sat next to each other in catalog-making class. Chalkboards are now, in my estimation, too much of a good thing. Of course, well designed type and handcrafted writing is awesome, but with new, fresh content—it’s much better!
So, if there is nothing new, what is inspiring manufacturers and consumers? I think the themes tend to stay the same in a conservative marketplace because consumers are purchasing with purpose. They buy to fit their collections, to match their existing décor, or to give to someone who loves a certain theme. And manufacturers still aren’t willing to take many financial chances.
The freshness, then, is coming from the new ways in which artists, graphic designers, illustrators, painters, cartoonists and all creators are approaching these themes in really unique ways:
- Juxtaposing unique art styles and varied themes
- Mixing colors in different ways (the higher-end manufacturers were using muted version of intense colors; the lower-end was using bold, bright and neon colors)
- Utilizing textures (lace, paint, rust, wire mesh, clay, hammered metal, fabrics, etc.)
- Creating silhouettes
- Designing the product itself
In the end, it’s about moving forward and trying new ideas and elements. Yet, still creating enough great work that appeals to the manufacturers who will fund production and distribution. I say out with ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ and in with something more original, such as, ‘Don’t Panic’ by Simply Eartha.