Learning from history to predict the future

Posted 31/08/2023 in Tips for Crafters

What would you give to be able to see into the future? Or, maybe, what would you give to slow down the pace of time? Do we want to see what’s coming, or is it in fact best that, however much we try, we can’t? Complex questions, but when it comes to planning new ranges for our craft business, a certain insight into future trends can be helpful. The movie industry has long thrived off producing films which delve into the future. Just as fascinating are those which throw us back to the past as well. The 1980’s blockbuster “Back to the Future” wove together past, present and future and its huge success indicated that the theme, as well as the characters and special effects, resonated with its audience. Simply looking at the aesthetics of the three films e.g. clothing, decor and car design is an interesting exercise in how, or even if, we can predict trends by studying the past.

Looking back over the last century, and each decade’s distinct trend, from the frugal make-do and mend of the wartime years to the wild abandon of the a-go-go movement in the 1960’s we can also see where a resurgence in vintage and retro styles has happened. Could we currently be heading for a throwback to times gone by?

Are we about to see a resurgence of some of these trends? We might be able to more accurately answer that question by looking to the past and observing the backdrop from which these trends took off. Some were born of necessity; both scarcities of finances and access to new products drove the ‘make do and mend’ wartime culture. With the huge and ever-increasing hike in prices for most of our daily living necessities, it would not be too far a stretch to see a resurgence in this. Crafters could be at the leading edge of a fresh movement of make-do and mend. Many crafting businesses use recycled products which not only keeps raw material costs down but also minimises the need to access materials from what might be a slow and complex supply chain. Crafters, by dint of being good with their hands, will have many of the skills needed to mend and upcycle clothes, furniture or other household goods.

Established crafting communities with regular meet-ups, such as sewing bees, group textile projects or more informal ‘coffee and catch ups’ in shared studios or workshops could become the engine houses for a return to crafting in these times, a place where young people can become immersed in this colourful, wonderful world. Could you offer sewing/mending/upcycling workshops, where for a given fee, local residents can come and receive some instruction on the basic skills needed to fix torn garments, knit a pair of socks or re-cover a kitchen stool? Incidentally, Instagram is currently awash with crochet patterns for bags and clothes, with many young people helping each other to discover the joy of making their own unique items.

While the actual reasons for the frugal lifestyle of the wartime years were horrific and caused many to suffer huge pain and loss, they are often now remembered with nostalgia as a time of community spirit, where neighbours pulled together and fast friendships were formed in the face of adversity over steaming mugs of tea. Could some of this be captured in upcoming product ranges? As many in our nation are indeed going through times of financial hardship and uncertainty, maybe a chunky mug or earthenware teapot might bring a ray of hope into some kitchens. Might there be a resurgence in the demand for knitted socks (with darning workshops available to teach this skill over warm mugs of tea and cosy chats). With this in mind, a make-do and mend theme, with the right balance of hope and camaraderie alongside could work well for window displays in independent craft shops UK.

Another area where crafters are uniquely positioned to be the vanguards is in the realm of bringing beauty into our homes. We all crave beauty, whether that be found in nature, in fine art, in a multi-coloured patchwork quilt or in a sturdy but delightful kitchen table. It is fascinating to observe how beauty is manifested in architecture during different periods in history.  One excellent example of this is in Krakow, Poland, where the plain and utilitarian buildings of the Soviet communist era stand out in stark contrast to the stunning and intricately adorned Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic structures. During the communist years of Eastern Europe, families and groups of friends huddled together, often in small rooms, to read excellent literature, listen to good music and appreciate any vestiges of a former, more aesthetically-minded era. Could it be that in an age of increasing anonymity, AI and digitalisation, our souls are being starved of beauty, simply for beauty’s sake? Crafters are in a prime position to bring beautiful objects into the homes of our nation. For managers of independent UK craft shops, your premises can be a treasure trove of delightful and elegant craft products, a visual feast and inspiration for each and every customer.

Vintage and retro have been trending for a couple of decades. It seems that as the rate of change in our world continues a-pace, consumers are increasingly hankering after products which root them to what they perceive to have been more stable times. If you manage or sell products in an independent craft shop in the UK, this could also be an eye-catching theme for your shop windows, inviting customers into your Aladdin’s cave of delightful, hand-crafted, long-lasting and totally unique products.

Finally, and linked to the fragmentation of many of our communities, might there be a resurgence in demand for regional crafts and foods? Owning a piece of knitwear or ceramics from a particular region of our beautiful nation can bring a sense of rootedness and belonging. As crafters, we are uniquely positioned to weave together the best of the past to bring hope and beauty into our present.