Trends to Watch for 2012

There are a number of exciting trends developing and evolving in the fashion/accessories/giftware/home décor market as we prepare to go into the coming year. See how many new trends you recognize. Are you using any of these elements?

Artists working smart with product design can make use of trends while giving their own signature look and style to each piece. Using a trend doesn’t mean following one – that almost guarantees you will be an also-ran. What interpretation do you have that takes these popular looks to a higher level and captures the attention of your target customer?



Recycled – repurposed, up-cycled, sustainable, eco-conscious goods are top of mind for many consumers. This reflects a lifestyle choice and adds value – make it a selling point. The Dionysus chandelier, above, from Kathleen Plate is made from recycled wine bottles. Another take on this trend is how Marianne Wakerlin of Solmate Socks makes her mismatched socks in a process that reuses scraps and creates no waste.

Felt – Fun, warm and snuggly, felt continues to grow as a popular material for hats, jewelry and clothing, such as this flower cloche by Julie Sinden. Colorful, funky and young, felt is a trend that is great for wearables, but how will it be adapted to a next generation of felt products?

Robots and Monsters – Who can resist these not-so-scary creatures? They endear themselves as cuddly fabric monster creations, or one-of-a-kind robots made from junk and other unusual materials, such as CHIP, The Robo Boy (shown) by artist  Will Wagenaar.  Think beyond gifts for kids… the hole in every store’s selection is gifts for men! These robots, which cross over from toy to collectible, make great gifts for men, too.

Jewelry in alternative materials – Precious metal prices are rising, hence jewelers are finding that combining different materials makes an alternative which is very appealing – including non-metal, silver-filled, pewter, aluminum, bronze and brass, or even glass, as in this abstract ring from 8 Petals. Minimalist and smaller designs in precious metals also offer a solution to price increases.



Nostalgia – Retro and vintage continues to be strong. Fun vintage aprons and kitchen ware as well as handbags are trending, like this auto-inspired purse, shown, from Trophy Queen. If you saw it on the set of Donna Reed or I Love Lucy, it’s back in style!

Assemblage is popular, too and vintage items may be incorporated and repurposed into a new form. Be careful, though. You can’t do multiple production of an icon. Each assemblage piece must be unique to avoid copyright litigation.

Cross-cultural – Multi-cultural, but eclectic, combining elements from different traditions. Tribal, such as Jim Whalen’s “Dream Weaver vase.



Unfinished Looks – Raw wood, found wood, stained, blemished, wire-brushed. Outdoorsy, rough, uncut, mixed with other materials such as concrete. Metal with a rough or distressed look. This “baseball bench” by Douglas Thayer shows the look.

Texture is a HUGE trend, compelling you to touch – this is seen as a reaction to the seamlessness of technology around us. Susanne Williams of Willi Nilli presents this “fire-puckered leather hobo” in her handmade line.


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  1. Blaine Owens says:

    As a photographer I am insight into the home decor market. I am interested in wall art trends. For example, what is more popular… photography framed under glass or photographs on canvas?

  2. I think you are right about consumers not wanting the expense of framing artwork. I find that it’s just as easy to do my mixed media collage work on stretched canvas as it is on paper, and then there isn’t the need for framing.


  1. […] Arts Business Institute’s Trends to Watch for 2012 article is yet another source. Recycled– repurposed, up-cycled, sustainable, eco-conscious goods […]

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