Six micro-trends for the rest of 2020

It’s Sunday morning and I’m noodling on where this hobby of ours is heading. In hindsight it’s always easy to see surges in popularity or big trends moving: the Gentleman Stationer just pointed out the growth in ‘oversize’ pens (pun intended), and anyone with an eye on the world of inks has spotted the explosion in first sheening then complex shaders in the past couple of years.

So what might be ahead?

I have a few ideas, based on the sentiment I can see on Instagram and some of the movements in what brands and makers are doing.

1. Crazy resins and collabs

Led by named makers like Jonathon Brooks and Bob Dupras, it seems the world has gone mad for diamondcast, swirly, hyper-saturated and patterned resins. I even saw a resin made of chopped up money the other day. I think we’re just getting started, for a couple of reasons.

First, the wider world has gone mad for resin pours too: I’m sure you’ve seen the craft videos on Facebook of wood-and-resin sculptures and coffee tables, phone cases from brands like Carved, etc. This means the materials and equipment will become more widely available (just as, in another market space, the popularity of vaping made exotic batteries more available for flashlight geeks like me).

Second, interest in arco pens remains high, and the world is running out of vintage rods, whether celluloid or otherwise. Look at Leonardo’s new Cuspide colours, which many have compared to arco. I think everyone is looking for the next arco.

Custom makers have been using crazy resins for a while, but now the mainstream is getting involved. Estie has its sparkly oversize; and Leonardo has even done a collaboration with Brooks. We’ll see more like this, I think as the next wave of the ‘limited edition’ gravy train that has burned itself out.

And I think we’ll see more collaborations, too, as big and small get together, or even as small and small join forces. Fontoplumo with Schon, Scribo with Write Here, Kaweco with Galen Leather, Corsani’s Visconti exclusives… just the first wave.

2. Machined fountain pens

Well, machined fountain pens never went away, but I’ve noticed a lot more interest and activity recently. There’s Schon’s Pocket Six, of course, but also promising new projects from the likes of Ben Walsh, Karas’s new Ink v2, Michael Martin, and non-FP pens from Tactile Turn, Ti2, etc. Fuelled by precision, exotic metals, and ever more sophisticated mechanisms for capping and retracting points, we’re seeing a bit of an arm’s race that I personally find exciting.

3. Heritage plays

A lot of pen companies have hit major anniversaries or centenaries (or notable design centenaries) in the past couple of years, including Platinum, Lamy 1919 Bauhaus, Otto Hutt, Cleo Skribent, Pilot, Aurora, and Pelikan’s Herzstuck 1929. In a market that is utterly saturated and highly competitive, having genuine heritage is a hugely defensible advantage and barrier to entry.

I commented in my Otto Hutt review that the company seems emboldened; I think Cleo probably feels the same. I reckon we’ll see a focus in the market on heritage — Parker’s just-announced 51 reboot, following on from the relaunched Estie and Sheaffer Legacy, is just the start.

And I’m not sure this will even be limited to heritage reboots. Look at Taccia’s Yukio-e inks, Pilot’s 7 gods inks, and even TWSBI’s first ink range, all harking back to a cultural heritage of old literature and mythology. In times of uncertainty as we’re living in now, the old ways become more appealing!

4. Nib variety

We went through a couple of decades of mostly F, M, B from a lot of major Western brands. But Aurora has always offered a wide range of nibs, now expanded with the Gocchia. Scribo has pushed into the 52-degree nib, the triple-broad, and the 14k flex. Estie has collaborated with a nibmeister on the Journaler nib out of the box, Franklin-Christoph offers its increasingly popular SIGs and Masuyama grinds, Appelboom now has Annabel as in-house nibmeister… oh yeah, and we have a new option here in the UK for stacked nibs, did I mention? I think the average pen enthusiast now has more awareness of the range of creative and practical options, and that will feed into increased availability of choice.

5. Pocket pens

Kaweco’s Sport is not the only game in town any more, and I’m excited. Schon’s Pocket Six is, of course, the big disrupter, but smaller makers are getting in on the trend, too: I’ve covered John Garnham’s effort, and Leonard Slattery is building one too (as are some other makers I have seen on Instagram). I can’t name the brand, but another major player is bringing out a pocket pen soon too. As people realise that ‘pocket’ doesn’t have to mean ‘uncomfortable’, I think we’ll see a spike in creative and fun options come to market.

So what do you think? Is your view of the market very different? Do you think I need to drink more coffee on a Sunday morning before I start shooting my mouth off about market trends? Share your ideas in the comments below.

14 thoughts on “Six micro-trends for the rest of 2020

  1. On heritage inks, TAG got there 3 or 4 years back with their Kyo-Noto and Kyo-Iro ranges of traditional Japanese colours, some of which were ukiyo-e woodblock colours.

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  2. As an admitted sucker for pretty pens, I for one welcome more crazy resins being more widely available, though I hope not to the detriment of the likes of Newton, etc, who do some gorgeous resins and of course our very own Dennis Humm’s (Dens Pens) beautiful pens and of course John Twiss. I love seeing more creativity regarding nibs and hope that goes from strength to strength.

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    • Ooh Tom, you have better attention to detail than me! I did have one more in my first handwritten draft, which was about proliferation of small brands and makers, particularly as lockdown encourages (or forces) people to start ‘selling the hobby’ — but in the end I decided I’d outstayed my welcome and cut it. But you get the bonus points 😂

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  3. Nice mention of Bob Dupras and Jonathan Brooks, but how about adding Tim McKenzie, the creator of the inimitably sparkly Diamondcast that you do mention?

    I like the tour through the “micro trends for 2020” but several – machine worked, Heritage, nib appreciation – feel like themes that have been around for several years now and (Heritage in particular – likely to be reliably cyclical) that are probably not flashes in the pan, or pen, come to that.

    The collaboration theme is an interesting one – it does feel as if maybe more is going on at the moment, with some relatively new players like Leonardo and Galen adding some great energy. But Corsani and Write Here have glorious back catalogues of collaborations and I hope they won’t stop now.

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    • Excellent feedback, Katharine! It sounds like you have a good finger on the pulse of the industry — what new trends are you seeing emerge that aren’t familiar?

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  4. Great challenge, Anthony 🙂 There are two that I can think of, though I think that one more or less counts as a personal character flaw.

    I feel that in the last couple of years we are seeing more Urushi pens come on the market. The big Japanese houses, and Danitrio, have had wonderful offerings here, but Wancher made a concerted effort a couple of years ago to make this finish more affordable and created a lot of interest and excitement – and they are continuing to produce more decorative options. Lamy went the other way, mind you, and offered a set of 4 Dialog-3 pens for something like £25. Not quite the “people’s pen” in the manner of a Safari 🙂

    And increasingly, it seems, independent makers are dipping their brushes more into Urushi – famously Jonathan Brooks has been doing some work, Manu Propria has been producing exquisite work for some years and even sells in Japan, but new names, like District Urushi and Urushi Studio India have arrived too. And the wonderful Japanese artist Bokumondoh will lacquer a pen you send her with urushi and add raden too, if you like.

    As for the other trend – it is ink more than pens. I’ve become worryingly aware of my ability to buy a bottle of ink purely on the basis that I love the label on the bottle. Again you could argue Kyoto-TAG were a bit of a trend setter here with their delicate ink-droplets. There are Sailor special/limited editions I have chased via forwarding services because the labels just seemed to be crying out to me. As I own very nearly 1,000 bottles, this indulgence really has to stop soon.

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