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Caroline Kennedy

Direct from Market: Los Angeles

Even rainy weather, which delayed some buyers driving from the outskirts into LA on the traffic clogged freeways, did not dampen the energetic vibe of the tri-partite Los Angeles gift market. The market is made up of the California Gift Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center, the Los Angeles Gift and Home Furnishings Market at the LA Mart and the LA Gift + Home Market at the California Market Center (CMC). For a market in transition over the past six months, with each of the three venues under new management, there has been no loss of momentum. In fact, there is a renewed energy and enthusiasm. This is not to say that there is not more work to be done. All three acknowledge that this is just a beginning of their efforts to re-invigorate and re-imagine the LA market.

Kate MestaKate Mesta, right, on red carpet with celebrity fan
The destination showrooms at the California Market Center saw a steady flow of customers beginning early in the week. The showrooms, California Marketing Associates (which anchors the gift and home exhibitors), Rosalie and Friends and others reported good traffic and order-writing starting on Tuesday that continued to be steady through the week but slowed on Friday when the temporaries at the Convention Center opened. The View, a new temporary show in the exhibition space on the 13th floor across the corridor from CMA, was small but had some interesting exhibitors not seen before at a gift show. The space itself is light, bright and open, with a great view.

Kate Mesta jewelryKate Mesta jewelry
The LA Mart was a hive of activity. A number of new and expanded showrooms providing new and interesting lines for buyers to explore, and special events that created some buzz. On Friday evening, Joanne & Company held an artist signing event in true LA/Hollywood style with red carpet celebrity star power. LA jewelry designer Kate Mesta, known for her edgy yet multi-generational appealing and wearable dog-tag necklaces and cuff bracelets posed on the red carpet with celebrity fans including a number of Disney kids. Even if one was not able to recognize the celebs, the red carpet and hubbub created a lot of curiosity and buzz.

At the convention center, there was a noticeable difference in the California Gift Show under its new management of Urban Expositions. It was condensed into a smaller space at the end of South Hall directly over Kentia Hall, making it easier for buyers to move between the two areas. However, smaller space does not mean smaller show. According to Joan Ulrich and Dirk VonGral, there were 30 percent more exhibitors at this show over last year, and many new and interesting resources to be discovered. The more compact layout of the show created a more intimate and vibrant feel on the show floor; the full front to back space of the hall was utilized for exhibits and the aisles were narrowed to the 10-ft. standard. Returning exhibitors were pleased with the changes and feel of the show.

Pretty PushersPretty Pushers
Moms and Kids

Stickee Friends is a new company just launched that offered toy characters on sticks that allow kids to express themselves through imaginative play such as creating stories and shows inventing adventures and plays for their characters. The characters also have a website tie-in for interaction.

For gifting the expectant mom, the Pretty Pushers dress/hospital gown is an attractive, practical, comfortable-and disposable- alternative to the traditional hospital gown to be worn during labor and afterwards. The halter top style is practical for nursing the newborn.

For young girls discovering their sense of style, Twirly Girl and Hairthingz will have appeal. Twirly Girl is a line of imaginative dress-up dresses and apparel in bright colors and designs for fantasy play or everyday wear. The original Twirly Dress is reversible, so she gets two looks for the price of one. Hair Thingz are spiral cut soft plastic tubes that can be wrapped around hair to create a number of different styles. They come 12 to a pack with three each of four different bright colors that can be mixed and matched to create different looks to coordinate with different outfits.

For keeping baby toasty, the blanket, hooded towels and sleep sacks from Bella Bundles, offer style and practicality in contemporary graphic patterns and bright colors. The blankets have an added element that moms will love-taps that snap around the stroller rails or baby carrier straps to keep it in place. The sleep sacks come in longer sizes to accommodate older babies still in the crib.

Besame CosmeticsBesame Cosmetics
For the little girly-girl's room, the Irna line of pink ballerina decorative accessories from KMP (King-Max Products) will enchant. The collection includes resin boxes, frames waterballs, lamps and other accessories.

Clean and Pretty

For both moms and babies-and the whole family, Piper Tate offers a line of organic, handcrated soaps made in small batches. The Baby Tate line is specifically formulated for the delicate skin of little ones.

Eye MajicEye Majic travel set
Another new personal care line is the Duke Cannon Supply Company  line for men. Packaged with a bit of male humor, the line consists of four "big ass bricks of soap" in fresh clean scents, two deodorants, and two hand soaps. The products have been tested by U.S. Military personnel and a portion of the proceeds goes to raise funds to fly veterans to the war memorials in Washington, D.C. To keep skin scrubbed clean and fresh, B&E Soap & Scrub Company launched a collection of Sugar Scrubs in seven fragrances that appeal to both men and women. They are made with all natural ingredients.

We are beginning to see more cosmetics entering the gift market to add a little more glam to the fashion side of the business. For a little vintage appeal, Besame Cosmetics brings back the glamour of the 1930s and '40s with classic red lipsticks derived from the original formulations, but without the harmful ingredients.The line also includes a lip balm, a foundation, refillable powder compact and a 1930s mascara. There is also a gift set with lipstick and a head scarf for that classic '50s look.

One Hundred 80 DegreesOne Hundred 80 Degrees

For a new way to apply eye shadow, there is EyeMajic. The shadow colors come already combined on an applicator strip that you simply press onto the lid and voila! instant glamorous eye shadow look. The Travel Kit, which includes shadow strips, an eye liner, mascara, lip gloss and lip liner makes a great bride and bridesmaid gift idea.

Jewelry Statements

Jewelry has become a staple of the gift merchandise mix and there is no shortage of choices at all price points. One Hundred 80 Degrees, primarily known for its holiday décor lines has introduced a line of jewelry created by One Hundred 80 Eighty Degrees owner David Gooding's sister Andrea D. King, who is a lampwork glass bead and jewelry artist. Gooding asked her to create a line for him. The line is a traffic-stopper. King's artistry in working the glass creates unusual looks not found in other beads. The experience of working in China and sourcing other elements to bring into her pieces expanded her creative horizons that the line benefits from.

Liberate JewelryLiberate Jewelry
It is all the fashion these days to layer bracelets and wear multiples. The Lizzy Wrap by Lizzy James Designs gives the look of multiples in one piece. The wraps are made of thin leather strands and metal bands that wrap around the wrist twice—the more strands, the more bangle look. The wraps come in 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 strand options. Better yet, the wrap can also be worn as a necklace.

Liberate Jewelry presented a collection of handmade-in-Haiti jewelry pieces. The company works with a non-profit group to help empower women and support their families. The attractive jewelry is made of beads crafted from recycled cereal box paper, clay and metal materials easily at hand to the women.

W Ellis SmithW Ellis Smith
Art on Paper and More

Two pen-and-ink artists brought their vision to two different product lines. Aaron Trotter showcased playing card decks and postcard books bearing drawings of different cities: Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Paris, San Francisco, etc. There are seven cities so far with more being developed. Each playing card in the card decks features a different drawing-52 in all. EJH Brand showcased its wildlife collection of drawings reproduced on a grouping of luxury products including limited edition prints, candle, pillows and letterpress stationery.

Maxwell DicksonMaxwell Dickson
Mixed media/collage artist W Ellis Smith has translated some of her elegant design sense to create a luxury line of stationery. The collection includes Art Deco-like graphic patterns and silhouettes on over-sized correspondence cards. They feature embossing and foil accents.

For an edgier take, Maxwell Dickson presented pillows, wall clocks and wall art combining looks of graffiti and pop art. The wall clocks have a design that extends off the clock onto the wall via a polyester wall fabric.

Bag It

Handbags are another fashion staple and women cannot have just one. Bright colors are in for spring and were noted at The Fashion Design Group, which presented an attractive selection of faux leather bags that look and feel like the real thing. Paper Thinks, known primarily for its journals and notebooks with recycled leather covers, also has a shopping tote, pouch and envelope case covers for the iPad and eReaders. The bright spring colors-fuchsia, violet, yellow gold and more-make the line pop. An unusual look is softer colors, as well as natural, are the cork handbags from Cortiza. The company also offers iPad covers, jewelry and phone cases in cork.

Topanga CandlesTopanga Candles
Vintage and Feel Goods

Vintage looks across all categories is a current trend. This includes real vintage, one-of-kind-items as well as those that are newly made to appear aged. Topanga Candles makes soy candles in old tin containers, ranging from old baking powder and tobacco tins to first aid kits and canisters. DeLaLuna Designs repurposes vintage handbags and fabrics into new wearable art, cutting and collaging different fabric patterns into new designs on the handbag or other item.

Silver Spoon Jewelry takes castings of old silver flatware patterns and creates new silverplated jewelry out of different parts. The peacock necklace and pin created from demitasse spoon handles is particularly striking.

Indigo ImportsIndigo Imports offers a gender-neutral collection of carryall bags made from recycle military tent canvas. The canvas is printed with graphics that impart a vintage feel.

Many lines we encountered had some sort of give-back/charity tie-in, but Roozt is a new showroom in the LA Mart where all the lines support a variety of different causes. This is the first wholesale outreach to brick and mortar stores. The product lines range from stationery by Help Ink, jewelry by Falling Whistles, luggage by Avery James Designs and wooden cased watches by WeWood.

Help InkHelp Ink at Roozt
And one final item that really intrigued: Wine Smoothing Drops from Wine Improvement. Formulated from all-natural ingredients, a few drops in a less than stellar wine, will improve its flavor. The Smooth Red decreases tannins that cause bitterness and the Smooth White reduces acidity. The Wine Rescue will help to bring back a wine that is beginning to turn.

The CMC and the LA Mart have both adjusted and coordinated their spring market dates to coincide with the LA Fashion Market to maximize cross-market buying opportunities for both gift/home and fashion boutique buyers. The spring market dates are March 10-14 at the CMC and March 10-12 at the LA Mart.

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