The NY NOW trade show, held every August and February in New York City, is a dizzying array of home decor, gifts, food, clothing and accessories — including plenty of small craft businesses.
While the juried Handmade Designer Maker category of the show — comprised of individual or small-team businesses that design and make their own products, with an emphasis on limited production — officially showcases only a few hundred companies, compared to more than 2,400 vendors overall, there is a huge focus on makers at the biannual show, which is open to store buyers making wholesale purchases, interior designers sourcing furniture and decor for their clients, and the media.
In fact, one of the first things I saw when I walked into the Javits Center in Manhattan for the summer show, which ran from Aug. 19-23, was a booth for show sponsor Handmade at Amazon, the mega-retailer’s online marketplace, which launched in 2015 (interestingly, Etsy’s wholesale website was a sponsor a few years ago).
The Handmade category also includes Handmade Global Design, for imports of traditional crafts and community-building enterprises from other countries, and Artisan Resource, which connects U.S.-based importers, including large retailers like West Elm and Anthropologie, with overseas artisans. But handcrafted products were scattered around the show, including in the Home and Lifestyle categories.
Where a business chooses to apply for space depends on their marketing strategy, explained Randi Mohr, NY NOW’s group show director and vice president of Emerald Expositions, which produces the show. “There are many companies where (the emphasis is) more that they’re a maker,” Mohr said.
This year’s show put handmade even more in the spotlight. While the Designer Maker category is usually housed in a separate space at the north end of the Javits Center, construction work there resulted in vendors being placed at one end of the Home Furnishings + Textiles section, and most of the vendors I talked to were happy with the change, and thought it offered them more exposure to the buyers walking the show.
I came to NY NOW to check out home decor and tabletop products for one of my freelance writing clients, and also take in the handmade vendors – which are generally the booths that I tend to gravitate toward.
Here are some trends I noticed:
- A big emphasis on American-made products that use locally-sourced materials.
- Lots of local and overseas maker cooperatives, including Rebel Nell, a Detroit-based business that employs homeless and formerly homeless women as jewelry designers and makers.
- A focus on mixed media and recycled materials, such as the geometric necklaces, earrings and bracelets made from recycled gold and silver by new Detroit resident Elaine B Jewelry, and the adorable leather book necklaces and waxed canvas and leather bags from Philadelphia-based Peg & Awl, which also sell home accessories and exhibited in the Home Furnishings + Textiles section of the show.
- Aesthetic trends included woven and embroidered textiles with a modern, soft bohemian style and plain, canvas and leather bags with a rustic vibe, seen from Artifact and Stash Co.
While political messages weren’t overt, Hope Bailey, who makes hand forged porcelain tableware and lighting with hand drawn designs in Tennessee through her company hope + mary, said her new pieces with feminist messages, including “Equal pay today” and Nevertheless she persisted,” were popular sellers online.
Trade shows are a big investment, but the information vendors collected on trends and wholesaling resources are invaluable, they told me. Elaine Butcher of Elaine B Jewelry said NY NOW, which she’s been doing for the past five years, has helped provide insight into how to shift her design aesthetic – she’s noticed that geometric jewelry seems to have peaked in popularity, and she is looking to create other looks. Mohr noted that neighboring vendors are generally open to sharing business resources and tips.
If you’re looking to see whether exhibiting at NY NOW is right for you, the winter show in February 2018 includes an Emerging Makers category within the Handmade Designer Maker section, for those who have been in business for a year or less and are looking to start wholesaling. Applications are now being accepted.