We’re told that this is the year of Hygge.
A Danish word pronounced hue-ga, it loosely translates as cosiness but means much more than cosy throws and woolly rugs. Linked to the word “hug”, Hygge has a sense of encirclement, of boundaries, of a safe space. It’s about a feeling of wellbeing, about quiet enjoyment, whether through time spent with close friends or family, sitting by a fire with a hot chocolate, or putting on warm socks and dry clothes after a rainstorm.
Here in Wales, we have our own word for this.
Cwtch, (rhymes with ‘butch’) has emerged as one of the nation’s favourite words in Wales and is a small cosy place, a cubbyhole, a snug; but it also has another meaning. Cwtch also refers to the act of creating a small space between you and another – like a hug, only much better! To “cwtch-up” is to snuggle up with someone on a cold welsh winters night. The true meaning of cosy!
Cwtch has a way of transporting you back to the safety of childhood, safe and comforting. This corresponds with the word’s other meaning, which is a place to safely store things – if you give someone a cwtch, you’re offering them a safe refuge from the uncertainties of life.
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It’s interesting that the full experience of cwtch and hygge does depend on our acknowledgement of the existence of the threatening dark and cold outside this refuge. Their emergence as new trends in 2016 is perhaps a sign that we are searching for this same security, this certainty, in an increasingly volatile and uncertain world.
Concepts like cwtch reflect the way we live now, in that they gather interiors, food and fashion into one cohesive picture, like a perfectly curated Instagram still life, or a Pinterest board. Other people’s photos are part of the daily fabric of modern life. You can window shop from your computer or mobile phone. In just a few seconds, you can see exactly how other people do it in their own homes. But hygge and cwtch are about how we feel, rather than simply being about how things appear.
Cwtch-Up your home with cosy, soft textures and wool carpets
Wool is a natural provider of cwtch and woven woollen blankets and throws, fabrics and soft floor rugs are the natural embodiment of cwtch along with woolly jumpers and thick socks, hot drinks and a warm fire.
But it’s not really about products with a practical use; but rather magical objects that summon up feelings and emotions: of safety and solace, of comfort and calm. This matters, because one of the biggest change in consumer habits in the last decade relates to how we spend our disposable income on experiences over possessions these days. Social media has turned individual experience and stories into social and cultural capital for your disposal, ready to be framed and hash tagged, inspiring others around the world.
Consumers are always looking for stories – but they must be local and authentic. Companies that have stayed close to their roots are prospering, even in the current economic climate.
20 years ago we didn’t emphasize the traditional Welsh roots of our fabrics; We sold our work on its appearance and design. These days, we find that the authenticity and the story behind the company are equally important.
The same applies to Alternative Flooring with their hand woven Barefoot wool carpet.
Blankets are physical objects not concepts, but blankets have always had a symbolic meaning above and beyond their physical presence. They are always handed out after any disaster, any disruption of the norm as a source of comfort. If somebody is in shock, people reach for a blanket or something to cover them, to hide them or to comfort them. Blankets and throws have become synonymous with safety in the face of shock, uncertainty, and the darkness beyond.
Even Dr Who, the fearless Time Lord himself, keeps some Melin Tregwynt blankets on the Tardis just for emergencies!
Today, tens of millions of online consumers are pro-actively blogging, telling and showing each other, what they’re feeling, thinking and doing.
At its best, the craze for hygge and cwtch could encourage a love of simplicity over expensive brands and conspicuous consumption, a renewed focus on the social relations that really matter. At worst, it could boil down to just another way of selling candles, Danish designer lighting, and even Welsh woven blankets.