UK consumers fall in love with the Christmas jumper

Friday, 12 December 2014
Christmas jumpers, once only thought stylish by knitting-needle wielding grannies, are enjoying a renaissance in Britain after being adopted as a festive fashion statement by young revellers. Responding to soaring demand for the colourful and eccentric creations, vintage clothing group Beyond Retro has opened a temporary store selling only Christmas jumpers in London's trendy Old Street.

"It isn't just hipsters that are doing it now, it's everybody, office workers to mums, dads, kids buying them for their whole family, everyone is getting involved and that's what so exciting," said Ashley Emerson, head of development at Beyond Retro. One happy customer was Louisa Tomlenson, a 33-year-old housewife. "We're all going to wear it (on Christmas Day), my husband, the children and everyone," she said. "It's everywhere, in lots of shops," she added.

Times have changed since the 2001 smash film Bridget Jones's Diary, in which Colin Firth's character Mark Darcy is made to look uncool by wearing a green woollen pullover decorated with Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. "The novelty knit... has rocketed up the cool-o-meter this season," said department store Debenhams, which has recorded a 200 percent increase in sales from last Christmas.

3D designs all the rage this Christmas

While bargain-hunters can still snap up cheap festive jumpers -- 100 percent acrylic -- high rollers can easily spend over 200 pounds (250 euros) on Cashmere or alpaca garments. Surfing the trend, British NGO "Save the Children" has since 2012 run a "Christmas Jumpers Day" on December 12, when those wearing seasonal knitwear are asked to donate a small sum for charity.

"Last year we were lucky enough to raise 1.5 million pounds with over a million people taking part," said Tanya Steele, financial director at Save the Children. "We're hoping to double that this year. We already have well over a million people signed up. "Christmas Jumpers have been part of the British psyche and part of Christmas for decades," she said, putting their resurgence down to a combination of factors.

Their traditional style chimes with the rise of Scandinavian fashion and taste for vintage, the mass of Christmas parties gives socialites the chance to show off their purchases all through December and their unsophisticated designs appeal to Britain's self-deprecating sense of humour.

"The English do like being a bit different and having their own cheesy or individual look," Tomlenson said. After picking up his jumper, Nicky Burgess, a 31-year-old lawyer, told AFP: "It's kitsch, it's cheesy but because it's this time of the year, people are more inclined to get on board with this kind of thing, particularly on office parties and nights out. "It's great fun," he said.

With competition rife to find the most eye-catching knitwear, those incorporating three-dimensional elements, such as Rudolph's nose or Santa's beard, are especially sought after. "A few years ago, people would be like 'oh no I couldn't wear that'" Emerson laughed. "But this year everyone is being coming in saying 'I want your craziest jumpers.'" (Jessica Berthereau, AFP)

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