One of my favorite quotes I’ve heard so far while researching trends on the back-to-school season compares the first day of school to walking the runway, with shoppers taking time to add a bit of ‘extra flair.’* Often times, this thought process applies not only to apparel, but extends to the supplies students carry with them. From what I’ve seen, “school supplies fashion” doesn’t end at high school or college; many professionals take pride in the supplies they carry with them, and use every day. This thought, among many others, crossed my mind as I walked the halls of Paperworld 2016 in Germany this month, and scanned the many styles, colors, fashions, and intricate designs that exist in supplies.
At Paperworld, the design studios of Bora Herke spoke about the anticipated global trends in supplies for 2016 and 2017. Three beautifully designed sets depicted how themes such as floral liberty, graphic vitality, and essential serenity translate in supplies. Terms like ‘bohemian festival’ and ‘retro folklore’ were used to describe floral liberty. Graphic vitality, they said, is created through illustrations, logos, and linear and geometric shapes with bold colors. My personal favorite, essential serenity, brings the minimalist, relaxed, and self-contained styles to life with neutral and sophisticated color combinations including milk-white, stone, cloudy blue, and graphite black highlighted with an apricot burgundy. I’ve seen some of these patterns and graphics in stores already.
As expected there were many variations surrounding themes on licensing, customization, and personalization. In a section of Paperworld called Creativeworld, exhibitor booths included art supplies, live do-it-yourself tutorials, and trends in crafting from around the world. One particular display showed how bland brown paper is used as gift wrap after being given a major face lift with decorative crafting accessories. In the U.S. the handmade movement has nearly doubled in the last decade. Tying in with this trend, patterned, design, and logo decorative tape sales increased by over $2 million in 2015**.
At Paperworld, fine writing pens and pencils were paired with matching fashion accessories like cufflinks. In the U.S., luxury supplies such as fine writing pens and pencils grew $2 million in sales in 2015**. Similar to what was being showcased on the conference floors, popular fine writing barrel colors including classic black, blue, and silver experienced the largest dollar growth in 2015, with fountain and gel leading the growth out of all fine writing pen types**.
In 2013, we saw stores full of neon and brightly colored supplies. In the years that followed, color assortments expanded beyond that, with popular shades swaying toward neutrals, pastels, metallic, and other bold and sophisticated color combinations. While we generally attribute fashion trends to industries such as apparel, fashion has become an integral part of the school and office supplies industry. Notebooks that evoke a sense of essential serenity say something about our personality, just as a fresh outfit on our first day of class.
*Source: The New York Times, “Back-to-School Shopping Campaigns, Already?” (May 2013)
**The NPD Group, Inc. / Weekly Retail Tracking Service, 52 weeks ending January 2, 2016