How do you invent a new look for a holiday catalog? If you're J. Crew's creative director Jenna Lyons, you spray-paint some gnome statuettes and smash a few ornaments.

Lyons gives us a first look at J. Crew's holiday catalog (out December 2) and highlights some of the best gift choices.

One of the biggest challenges to this season's catalog is originality, says Lyons. "How do you do holiday without being corny, instantly recognizable but not overdone?" One way J. Crew avoids holiday fatigue is to use the color red only for December catalogs.

"We purposely stay away from red the rest of the year. We don't use red type or photograph red clothes at other times," she explains. When crimson appears this month, "people notice a change. It's subtle but it's a signifier."

The cover and first set of women's pages glow with a deep, winey hue -- spiked with bright, cherry-red accessories: Red ladders, unspooled ribbons, broken ornaments and yes, red-painted gnome figurines give a fun, slightly chaotic look to the photos.

For Lyons, this bit of messiness ties into a core J. Crew concept: "the imperfect perfect." Instead of an impeccable image, the joy's in the lived-in, unpolished detail.

That old-chestnut phrase "the gift that keeps on giving" inspired new temptations. A women's Jewelry of the Month Club and men's Tie of the Month Club join the original shoe club. Every month, members receive a new accessory. These won't be cookie-cutter choices; the selection will be made in real time, to pick up on developing trends throughout the year.



The importance of family is another key theme in this month's catalog. In the men's pages you'll find the Family Guys, each a fellow personally connected with the J. Crew staff who was photographed with loved ones.

And who's that toward the back? Lyons herself, alongside her grinning brother and father. "It was not my idea!" she laughed. "We weren't able to get someone at the last minute so we were stand-ins. I was not the first pick, I'll have you know!" The photo session was a happy impromptu reunion, a gift in itself: "My father was beaming."

Lyons' brother models a Baracuta G9 jacket that he put at the top of his wish list. These classic British waxed-cotton, tartan-lined jackets are a J. Crew exclusive in the U.S. (We ladies will have to be patient a bit longer; a resized women's Baracuta arrives in the spring.)

A pair of menswear-inspired foulard silk pajamas tops Lyons' own wish list, along with a platinum-colored silk bow-tie skirt. "I'll have to order fast since we didn't order too many," she realizes, jumping into the holiday shopping fray along with the rest of us.

Get Jenna's take on J. Crew's current catalog.