Once upon a time, catalogues were simple. A 3,000 page directory would land on the doormat, from which the family would pick out their clothes. Then every month, the catalogue would be paid off. Easy. Now, they’re baffling glorified pamphlets, full of out-of-focus photography and non-sequiturs. Here are four of the worst culprits…
This high end London knitwear company specialise in deliberately gloomy catalogues that look like Ingmar Bergman outtakes. For the festive season, models were unceremoniously plonked on freezing Swedish hillsides (Happy Christmas!). ‘Amber and gold, silver and blue…’ the copy breathed. ‘Stay warm. Remain yourself.’ However, at £474 for a wrap over cardigan, you may have to forget about ‘remaining yourself’ and put the heating on instead.
Perhaps you have read Johnnie Boden’s over friendly emails, beseeching you to visit his clearance sale. Strangely, though, they are completely at odds with the Boden catalogue itself, which uses improbably gorgeous Slavic models called Amygdala and Bundesleague and asks them pretentious, enigmatic questions like ‘What do you miss?’ (The answer is usually ‘my children’ or ‘food’).
Quirky Charlie and Caroline Gladstone live in a castle in Scotland, run an organic farm in North Wales, and are one of the reasons that Keep Calm and Carry On is so ubiquitous. Pedlars sell wacky vintage objects like old bus blinds, and also specialise in life-affirming prints that say insincere things like: ‘YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RUDDY MARVELLOUS’. The catalogue is more self-consciously British than a bulldog running out of the butchers with a string of sausages, and it ever so slightly makes you want to emigrate.
Based in Cardigan Bay in South Wales, this organic outdoor wear company appeal to cyclists, surfers, and attractive outdoor types. Cue mediocre Welsh art college illustrations, long boring ramblings from Welsh mountain bikers and images of Welsh models who don’t look like models, staring into the Welsh middle distance in astonishingly pricey merino wool cycling shirts. (Did I mention they’re Welsh?)
Many more of these tastefully art directed tomes land on doormats every day. But perhaps it’s time brands took a tip from the trusty Argos catalogue and encouraged customers to actually buy things from them. It’s just a thought. Oh, and one of those little free pens would be lovely.