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John Lewis offers a ‘celebration of British scenery’ says Jason Billings-Cray, Christmas Buyer for the store

For 2021, John Lewis seven new themes focus on an honest reflection of our times within the beauty of nature, here we talk to Jason Billings-Cray – Christmas Buyer at John Lewis all about this year’s collections and what to expect from the advert.

Jason Billings-Cray - John Lewis Christmas Q&A

Hey Jason, It’s lovely to chat about all things Christmas with you again, how has the build-up to Christmas 2021 been for you?

I love Christmas and really enjoy living in a Christmas world all year. I love creating new products and developing innovative ideas for the festivities. So, although I’m always in Christmas mode, I still revel in the lead up to the Christmas launch. I have put my heart into the new products, and I am so excited to share them with everyone and bring some much-needed joy to Christmas 2021. The anticipation is great, as John Lewis looks to share the BIGGEST CHRISTMAS EVER.

Once again, John Lewis has pulled out all the stops with its seven Christmas themes, how did you go about creating these?

Small and intimate was the order for 2020 and there was no lack of wonder as our customers ensured it would be a magical day for their families. Beautifully laid, smaller tables and a bonanza light display for neighbours kept the spirit well and truly alive last year.

But, with changes afoot we know many will be hoping to have a full house filled with familiar faces and enjoy the Christmas traditions we may have missed out on last year.

For Christmas 2021, our development time and inspiration were right in the midst of lockdown. We felt it was important to create themes that were an honest reflection of our times. In previous years we may have travelled, collaborated and researched fantastical themes and design inspiration.

John Lewis Christmas 2021 - Blush Coast

When it came to designing the looks for this Christmas, we found our inspiration a little closer to home than usual. As a team working remotely, we found that we all reconnected with the world around us and found the joy and beauty in our little pockets of nature. From windswept coastlines, to babbling rivers, the colours and feelings we discovered over the last year have inspired the looks we have created for the upcoming festive season. We know many of our customers have found the outdoors to be a tonic at a very strange time and that, even with the reopening of the world, this new love affair is here to stay.

So, we offer a celebration of British scenery this year, both urban and rural, and have done so with a generous dose of magic and whimsy to inspire our customers. We look forward to ringing in the most anticipated Christmas with everyone, as we make festive moments and create cherished memories. 

You mentioned that you had to work remotely this year, did this help or hinder when choosing the design and looks for Christmas?

Like many people we had to quickly adapt our ways of working; virtual meetings were the main order. The difficulty was losing out on the nuances of face to face discussions. However, the silver lining is that more people could join our virtual development meetings, and more time could be spent in discussions without the need to physically move from 1 place to the next. I am really pleased with the level of quality and amazing new product we have developed during unprecedented times. 

Although challenging at times, I hope our customers will not notice the hard work and energy we have had to take to deliver another great Christmas assortment. Every year we try to out-do ourselves, and 2021 is no different, I think it is the best Christmas assortment ever, no holding us back.

Gemstone Forest has to be one of the brightest collections we’ve seen yet, explain in three words how best to describe this theme?

Maximalist, Magical and Mysterious.

I really wanted the theme to have an enchanted and magical quality, which is brought to life by the characters which adorn the tree and use of colour; with highlights of pink, purple and gold that shine brighter amongst the deep green tones.

I love the abundance of the Gemstone Forest tree, inspired by the abundance of life found in British forests. This theme is all about ‘more is more’- WHICH I LOVE.

John Lewis Christmas 2021 - Gemstone Forest

Using two different sets of coloured lights, pink and green add to the magical feel and the use of neon stars gives the theme a contemporary whimsical feel.

We asked you last year to pick your favourite bauble, so what’s your favourite piece from this year?

I’ve grown attached to all the baubles and themes for 2021, so I hope you don’t mind the indulgence of me picking my favourite from every theme.

Snow Mountain: Snow Mountain Frosted/Clear Tree Scene Bauble. This bauble is made in Europe, mouth blown glass, and hand painted. I love the detail you get in the hand-painted and artisan process, making this a really special bauble of the very best quality.

Copper River: Mandarin Duck. This duck is the epitome of the Copper River theme. I love the beautiful colours of this majestic duck, which mirror the colour palette of the theme. The bright oranges and copper are offset by the deep blues and teal.

Blush Coast: Puffin. Nothing says British coast like the much loved Puffin. For family appeal and those who love collecting new baubles, we looked into the nation’s favourite animals. For 2021, in bauble form, we have all of the top 20 favourite creatures! Puffin at number 14 is represented in the Blush Coast palette’s pale ocean blue.

John Lewis Snowy Mountain Bauble, Puffin Bauble and Manderin Duck Bauble

Luxe City: Stained Glass Geo Bauble. I love the colour of this bauble and the contemporary geometric shape. This bauble was inspired by both the iridescent reflective windows of modern sky scrapers, and by traditional stained glass windows of churches.

Festive Field: Felt Mushrooms. Inspired by a visit to Leckford Farm Estate where the partnership grows mushrooms, I was keen to introduce this trio of felt mushrooms. Unlikely Christmas icon the Mushroom represents Autumn and Winter and has been a popular addition to Christmas decorating over recent years.

Gemstone Forest: Fuschia Glitter Leaf Bauble. Colour is King! I absolutely love the magenta hot pink of this bauble, this is my favourite colour for Christmas 2021. The Gemstone Forest theme has many traditional Christmas aspects, which find new life through an updated palette. This bold new colour within the Gemstone Forest theme is what makes this my favourite theme for 2021.

Technicolour Supernature: Rainbow Heart. I’m really proud to continue our partnership with the NHS charities together, this year supporting the charity with our new Rainbow Heart bauble. The bauble has great meaning and is a great chance to give back and give thanks.

John Lewis Mushroom, Luxe City, Rainbow Heart and Gemstone Baubles 2021

As always, here we go again, can you give us any clues on this years JL advert? honestly, Jason, we’ll tell nobody!

I wouldn’t want to spoil any surprises, you’d be disappointed if I did give any hints!

Finally, we know last year you shared with us that you were planning a Christmas Zoom corner for video catch-ups, so what will Christmas be like for you this year?

Our use of technology to interact has grown exponentially over lockdown, many of us are now well versed with zooms, video calls and video chats- I expect much of this to continue for those we cannot see in person. I will be ready with a festive backdrop, featuring our best selling rainbow bauble wreath and our new matching rainbow bauble garland. As King of Christmas, I need to do my best to give friends, family and coworkers zoom-envy.

However, with limitations over the 2020 Christmas period, many of us are very excited to get together with those we missed last year. I know I’m planning for the biggest Christmas ever, an epic celebration and full of excitement I’ve been dubbing ‘The Roaring 20s’. To greet those who come to visit I’m planning an amazing outdoor lighting decorating scheme, as well as speaking to the neighbours about how we could light-up the street as a literal beacon of joy.

A huge thank-you to Jason for taking the time to talk to us once again and share all things Christmas at John Lewis, now we’ve just got to predict the John Lewis & Partners 2021 Christmas advert, and we’ve got some ideas already, which you can see here.