Inclusive Christmas decorations help to champion diversity

Natalie Duvall, 39, and Alison Burton, 50, both from Croydon, south London, co-founded diverse decorations company March Muses in 2019.

Danielle Desouza
Thursday 01 December 2022 00:01 GMT
Andrea Angel, one of March Muses’ Christmas decorations celebrating diversity (March Muses/PA)
Andrea Angel, one of March Muses’ Christmas decorations celebrating diversity (March Muses/PA)

The founders of a company which makes inclusive Christmas decorations – often inspired by powerful “black excellence” – have said it has been an educational and inspiring process seeing the positive impact they have made in championing diversity.

Natalie Duvall, 39, and Alison Burton, 50, both from Croydon, south London, co-founded the diverse decorations company March Muses in 2019, after being inspired by their daughters.

Ms Duvall, who also serves as the company’s creative director, told the PA news agency that a thought-provoking question asked by her seven-year-old daughter at the time Sophia while decorating the family Christmas tree in 2018 led to the birth of March Muses.

“Can Christmas angels have brown skin?” she asked her mother.

Ms Duvall replied with: “Of course they can have brown skin. Why would you even ask such a question?” while they were hanging up white Santas, white elves on the shelf and white angels.

“And I was like, ah OK, this is why you think angels can’t have brown skin.”

She said she turned to places such as Amazon, John Lewis and Etsy to try to find some diverse Christmas decorations, expecting to find “loads”.

“There was none, except one in America which would have cost around 40 dollars (£33.60), including shipping costs”, she added.

“And I just thought, I’m not going into the New Year like this – it really upset me – and I wanted to make sure that was not the case moving forward.”

In 2019, March Muses was born – a name which holds a lot of significance to the pair.

“We are both born in March, we are March babies and we were inspired by our daughters to create this range – they were our muses, our inspiration”, Ms Burton, who is the company’s project director, told PA.

“And many of our figurines have been inspired by people we consider to be black excellence.

“We have two tree toppers – one is called Chaka as in singer Chaka Khan, we have Mariah as in Mariah Carey, the queen of Christmas, and figurines named Diana as in Ross, and Aretha, they were all born in March too.”

The tree topper based on the All I Want For Christmas Is You singer, who seems to be a staple in the festive charts each year, holds a special place in Ms Duvall’s heart.

“That was the one I enjoyed designing the most,” she said.

“It took quite a few goes to get the dress right, so it didn’t look like a toilet brush but she turned out gorgeous and it only took 10 days.

“I just look at her and think, ‘I love you’. She just sparkles and she is so pretty.”

The design process has been educational and initially gave rise to some “terrible, terrible samples”.

“We were lucky enough to find a manufacturer in China who brought our vision to life, but as we were asking them to make something different – non-white Christmas decorations – we had to be careful of the language we used,” Ms Duvall said.

“When we said black initially, we received an angel that was literally black as coal and I thought, we need to change our language, we need to say African American and we started to get closer to what we wanted.

“It was a lot of work, a lot of terrible, terrible samples, a lot of weird looking hairlines, including one with a widow’s peak and some with 1980s hairstyles.”

However, Ms Burton said that the trial and error process eventually led to them being able to “perfect” their finished products, while also learning a lot along the way.

They also appeared on Dragon’s Den in April of this year, where they secured investment from Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones.

She added that it was all worth it to see the “super excited” reactions from both women’s children.

“They’ve been part of the process from the very beginning, so when samples were coming over they were really excited to see them and they’ve seen the business grow from strength to strength over the years and us introduce more angels,” she said.

“‘Oh my God, they look like me’ were some of the things they would say to me.”

However, she added that now they see them as being normal, which has been an even more amazing reaction for her.

“That’s exactly what we want, we want that to be the reaction,” she said.

Customers have also provided “brilliant” feedback about the diverse range of products.

“We have a really diverse customer base because we have figurines in lighter and darker skin tones.

“So we cover so many bases – whether you are mixed-race, from the Asian community, a Latina, our figurines can suit anyone who has a little melanin.

“And some people buy them as gifts who may not be from these backgrounds because they just want to champion diversity.”

March Muses have also branched out to create items including wrap and tag sets, greeting cards and cake toppers.

With the World Cup taking place in Qatar from November 20 to December 18, the pair wanted to mark the occasion with a bit of positivity by including a footballer angel in their range.

“Seeing the racism shown to players in the Euros made us think that we need to do something positive and support the team so that football hopefully comes homes this time around,” Ms Duvall added.

March Muses’ decorations are available to buy at Selfridges and Liberty London or on its website:

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