“I like my money where I can see it—hanging in my closet,” Carrie Bradshaw famously professed in Sex and the City. Almost in the same breath, she admitted that she uses her oven space for shoes. But that was 20 years ago. This year, Carrie would probably swap her Fendi Baguette for a real baguette baking in a Dolce & Gabbana x Smeg oven.
During this unprecedented period of confinement, when frequent flyers and conspicuous consumers no longer exist, many people have developed an appetite for shaking up their nests instead of their wardrobes. Those who used to spend their cash on a new statement coat are instead setting their sights on statement centrepieces. And savvy designers who’ve been stung by the widespread shift to WFH, where sweatpants are the new norm, are only more than happy to satisfy this hunger with new lines of haute homeware.
Fendi, Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani planted flags in the space as early as the Seventies, but the pandemic has spurred a broad array of fashion labels to dive into the home category. In the last year alone, historic Japanese brand Kenzo launched K3, its furniture range; Balenciaga debuted an objects line in November with a limited-edition sculpture of the Track.2 sneaker; and even a niche label like Bernadette from Antwerp started marrying its prints with ceramics and table linens. Designer dishes and kitchen gadgets began cropping up all over our digital feeds, from Ann Demeulemeester’s minimalist porcelain made with Belgian homeware label Serax to Dolce & Gabbana’s Sicilian-patterned kitchen appliances with Smeg, which began making refrigerators with the Italian designers five years ago. Like the perfume and beauty frenzy of decades past, homeware has become fashion’s next frontier.
Collaborations have always been an easy way to test a market, allowing designers to tap into new categories through a partner with an established following, especially for smaller brands wary of risking an unfamiliar space or managing couch-sized inventory. And e-commerce platforms with proven reach have made it easier for them to try new products. Off-White, for instance, launched its homeware exclusively on Farfetch, and Matchesfashion—where the Ann Demeulemeester collection was launched—saw a 43 per cent growth in home goods last year. Meanwhile, its rival Net-a-Porter established its lifestyle category in November.
“I feel it’s a great opportunity for brands to test the reception to new categories,” says Libby Page, senior fashion market editor of Net-a-Porter. “We have a long history of pioneering new categories with brands before they go on to make them at a much larger scale.” Unsurprisingly, the brands that are having the easiest time crossing categories are ones with recognisable prints. “Erdem’s prints transfer beautifully onto blankets,” says Page, citing a successful crossover with the British design star. “It was a great opportunity for the brand to use its archive patterns and translate these ‘fashion prints’ into the world of homeware.”
Lucia Tait Tolani, former senior stylist at Moda Operandi turned interior decorator in Hong Kong, has seen her clients investing in quality furnishings since they’ve had time to better experience their spaces. “I see them finally swapping out a stopgap for the perfect piece, whether that be a chair or a light,” she says. “They want their homes to look a lot like the modern way women dress now—splurging on quality pieces, following trusted names, open to special small brands, and throwing in a little something for their spouses.” Tait Tolani cites another fashion-homeware brand, La DoubleJ by Los Angeles-born editor JJ Martin, as a favourite. Martin has become known for replicating playful Italian floral prints from dresses onto decorative charger plates and other chic ceramics.