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Reports on shows, trends, and more

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New York's International Gift Fair

Bountiful "bling" and stark simplicity.

by Ellie Joos and Shea Szachara (August 21, 2006)

Ellie's observations.

Covering this show in one day is nearly impossible, but that was all I had, so I focused on my favorite sections, HandMade, Floral, Accent on Design, and At Home. In addition to looking for trends at this show, I also looked for any crossover ideas from the craft industry. I’ll start with trends.

In color, in products, and in booth display, the direction has been in colorful backdrops such as burnt orange, chocolate brown, and a light aqua. One booth looked especially new with a deep blue, almost navy backdrop, and another in a deep amethyst/plum color.

For those of you who are following color trends in fashion and home interiors, you know that the brown family and blue family will be important, and we will also be seeing a lot of plum/purple tones this fall, going forward for next fall as well. Animal prints have returned (or, honestly do they ever leave for long?). Leopard, zebra in black and white and brown and white, and giraffe prints in bedding, lampshades, throws, pillows.

In the Accent on Design section, designated by dark raspberry-colored carpeting (last year it was orange), colorful home décor items reigned in orange, plum, and aqua/turquoise. Patterns for pillows and accessories are bold and graphic, often 2 colors used together, making a statement that is modern and retro at the same time. Black and white was also important and I saw this again in the 2’s Company booth, a major supplier to the gift retailer, in pillow, frames and kitchen accessories. They also combined it with aqua for a very pretty look. Black also appeared in gorgeous Christmas ornaments from John Toole. Here it was combined with icy blue or silver for a very modern look. Grey, another color we are hearing a lot about for Fall/Winter 07, appeared and is influenced by metallic chrome and pewter.

In the HandMade section, several trends stood out, one being the interest in environmentally friendly products or those made with recycled materials. Ecoist, a fairly new company, was displaying a line of very good looking handbags made from recycled candy wrappers. Fitting in with the corporate responsibility trend in marketing, this company plants a tree for every bag it sells and has partnered with Action Against Hunger to donate a meal for every handbag sold.

Escama, (means fish scales in Portugese) exhibiting at this show for the first time, had a great collection of handbags made by crocheting aluminum pull tabs together. This company partnered with womens’ cooperatives in Brazil, and each bag comes with the story of the artist who made the bag. Also in this section were charming hand-crocheted animals from Anne Claire; petit, gorgeous contemporary knitted scarves from smARTWORKS; lovely decoupage boxes and frames from 2nd Floor Studio; and ribbon pillows and totes from Jordan McMillan and Co. Tigo Enterprises expanded its line of knit kits in large plastic cups to include Cap-Puccino, which contains the ingredients, including bamboo knitting needles, for a cozy hat, and Szechuan Scarf packaged in – you guessed it – a Chinese take-out container. Very clever.

Other "crafty" products that caught my eye were paint-by-number, wall-border designs; hand-crocheted wire jewelry and purses by Lisa Toland; knitted kits for dog coats and hats from Style Hounds; large cable knitted pillows and throws from 525 America; and from C&C Floral, vases, boxes, coaster, buckets, and other accessories in 1/8" felt, a trend I first reported on seeing at the Christmasworld show in Germany in 2005. Masha Minsburg Studio from Germany, had the most exquisite sheer silk shawls combined with felted flowers applied to the silk surface, "to die for."

Recently I read in Women's Wear Daily about bamboo being used in apparel and cosmetic products. This "prolific’ plant, when combined with some cotton or silk, is a very soft fabric. Two companies had "at home" or leisurewear garments at the show. Dreamsacks, exhibiting for the first time, had a very nice line of easy separates. This 11-year-old company has just started using the bamboo fibers in their production. Subtle Luxury also had a great line of apparel. They pointed out to me that not only is bamboo a renewable fiber, it is also anti-bacterial.

The 50’s influence was also seen, (are we craving a return to a time of less world turmoil?) in lamps and lampshades, sleek lines in furniture, and witty and irresistible kitchen aprons, the latter from Kitsch n’ Glam. This two-and-a-half-year-old company had a very simple but striking booth displaying great products.

Overall, those that I spoke with reported having a good show. I also sensed activity at the show, and more exhibitors than past shows. Show management also reported a positive, upbeat attitude on the show floor.

(Note: Ellie is president of Ellie Joos & Associates, a marketing, pr, and product development firm. To read Ellie's and others reports on other industry-related shows, click on the titles in the right-hand column. To contact Ellie call 908-459-9269 or email eleapple@hotmail.com.)

Shea's observations.

After two days of walking the New York International Gift Fair, my mind was on overload with the variety of offerings.

Arriving on Saturday meant that not all exhibitors were set-up but the Handmade, Just Kidstuff and Museum Source venues were open, plus both piers housing Floral & Garden Accessories, New & Distinctive Resources, and At Home.

Accent on Design, General Gift, Personal Accessories and Tabletop/Housewares were condensed into our Sunday review. We never made it to the Metropolitan Pavilion where EX*TRACTS and the Home Textiles Show were held. There were plenty of shuttle buses available for attendees to travel between venues, but we were on a time limit and so stayed within the Javits Center.

Overall I found the show to be divided between bountiful "bling" and stark simplicity. There seemed to be little for the middle of the road consumer with moderate taste.

On the glitzy, "bling" side, not an item was left without embellishment of colored rhinestones, glitter, crystals, feathers, tiny mirrors and more. Crayon-clear colors plus hot, hot pinks were the norm found in frames, ceramic giftware, personal boutique accessories, lighting, handbags and jewelry.

Home accent pieces such as trunks and small tables were dark with straight, unadorned lines. Lots of brushed silver was found in lamps, frames, table accents and other home accessories. Beyond black and white everywhere, the primary source of bright color was found in very large art glass items. Imaginative vases where shown in flowing colors of reds, oranges, purples and greens. These need no flowers and are meant to be used as stand-alone accent pieces. Neutral tones still abound with chocolate brown and aqua or raspberry shown together in accent pillows and textiles.

Victorian in pastel or jewel toned and the long popular Shabby Chic were nowhere to be found. II saw only one booth of 1940-50s retro and suspect that these three trends are now over.

Bath and bedding items were still being shown in soft spa tones of off white, aqua, and pale green. Texture was everywhere here, showing up as small machine-embroidered geometric quilting.

The one theme that I saw repeated in both areas involved the ocean. Many items had seaside, fish, and shell related designs. This crossed over from the more colorful booths to the more conservative with color schemes changing to fit the vendor.

Surprisingly, there were a number of designs shown in felt. I saw unique jewelry items, journals, pillows, and frames made from or covered with felt. This might well be an indicator of a return to a long time craft industry basic. Certainly in the hands of upscale designers it was shown with much sophistication at this show.

There was also a large number of booths and products dedicated to pets. From feeding dishes and bedding to custom carriers and clothing. One very upscale booth even had very upscale end tables in solid box and octagon designs with a hole cut in the side, fully lined for the upscale pet to enter for their comfort and security.

(Note: Shea is an award-winning designer, author, educator, and consultant who has been involved in the decorative painting and crafting industries for more than 25 years. Begin to Paint, Begin Now, her latest instruction book, has been released by Plaid.. Shea has held positions on committees and boards of all major industry trade organizations and is the current secretary of the Board of Trustees for the Decorative Arts Collection, Inc. Shea can be contacted at sszachara@stny.rr.com.)

(To read previous Scene & Heard entries, click on the titles in the right-hand column.)



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