• Caroline Kennedy

Direct from Market: San Francisco

Apparently gift and home buyers' hearts are still in San Francisco if the recent San Francisco International Gift Fair, which ran February 26-29, is any indication. The show, which had lost some of its vibrancy a few years ago due to the unsettled economic climate, has regained its vigor, bringing together a range of exhibitors in more than 900 booths in 11 different product sections. At the beginning of opening day, the registration area was busy as buyers lined up to get their badges to enter the show first thing. The aisles were well populated throughout the day. The show drew buyers not just from the Northern California and western region, but from throughout the country as well.

First impressions do matter, and the first impression upon entering the south hall of the Moscone Center and encountering the large exhibit of Roost, was quality and style.


That set the overall tone for what we encountered across the show floor from exhibitors both large and small. Key multiline rep groups were there in force — among them Mary Hada, Fine Lines, Keena and Lori Minden — along with vendors of all sizes, including Melrose Intl., whose give-away totes were seen carried across the show floor, Lollia, which always has a crowd in its booth, and SPI, whosebluetooth home and garden pieces have been captivating buyer interest since they debuted.
For the buyer who comes only to San Francisco to source, the show offers the quality and range of products to meet their needs, from handcrafted (both U.S. made and global), vintage and contemporary designs to garden, fashion and home accessories, as well as stationery, novelties, personal care and giftables of all kinds. But for someone who perhaps comes to SFIGF after shopping other shows, this is a good place to discover interesting smaller and emerging companies.

Mothers' Little Helpers

Necessity — and practicality — is the inspiration for mothers' inventions. Such is the case with Ginelle Mills' Coolwazoo multi-purpose changing pad for babies. It has wipe-clean material surface, a high-tech inner padding the repels heat, an attached kneeling area for mom and folds up into a compact pouch size. It is designed to convert to a seat cover for high chair, shopping cart or even playground swing.

Other mom-invented products are The Babee Covee and the Aacua and Haarbib from Maamam. The Babee Covee is a baby/playtime blanket that is also a cover for the car seat, shopping cart, high chair, stroller or nursing. It is machine washable with a soft plush fabric on one side and a woven fabric on the other. Strategically placed ties and covered openings give this blanket its versatility. Made in U.S.A., Maamam's Aacua is a multipurpose hooded towel wrap/robe for infants and toddlers. The Haarbib is a toweling vest/wrap for older kids to wear to keep clothing dry while washing up or drying hair.

Indy PlushIndy Plush

To help younger kids reach the faucet handle and bring the running water closer t them, there is the Aqueduck handle and faucet extenders from Peachy. The extenders fit over most tow-handle faucets and make it easier for kids to turn on the water themselves. The faucet extender slips over the faucet and has a little duck bill trough shape that brings the flow of the water closer to the kids.


Eco-friendly Indy Plush is an edgy plush line with kid-appeal since some it its critters are designed with kids' input and inspiration. The line is 100 percent American made from the fabrics to the stuffing to the finished pieces. The stuffing is made from recycled plastic bottles. The outer fabrics are made of sustainable wool or cotton.
The Monster Factory's offerings of imaginative characters, each with their own personality, hold appeal for kids of all ages. Twelve designs for spring 2013 were featured.
Plush toys with a difference are NightBuddies, designed to keep the under-the-bed-monster at bay. These vehicle shaped plush toys have a special feature: squeeze them and their headlamp eyes light up. The light offers reassurance and security to kids in the dark and help them go to sleep.

Red Fish ToysRed Fish Toys
Red Fish Toys showcased a selection of shaped wooden puzzles for kids. The puzzles are handcrafted in Sri Lanka and painted in colorful non-toxic paints. The puzzles are educational as well as creatively fun. Kids can learn about colors, letters and numbers, as well as shape matching while assembling the pieces.

For kids (or adults) who want to craft their own critters, Woolbuddy offered needle felting kits with step-by-step instructions and all the materials needed to create a range of different animals that are very engaging. The kits range from easy to advanced in difficulty level.

Peace and Love

To find a little peace through fragrance, Vuudh presented the Eastern Passage Collection of exotic home fragrances, each inspired by a different locale in the Far East. The collection includes sprays, candles and diffusers.

Show the Love showed its love of creating inspirational jewelry. The delicately sculpted pieces are designed to express a feeling or uplifting sentiment. Many feature a quotation or positive affirmation. The jewelry is crafted with recycled metals and ethically sourced stones. Five percent of profits are donated to water.org

Paper Artistry

For stationery items such as journals, notepads, postcards, placemats and wrapping paper with an edgy difference, there are the offerings from Wrapped. The designs are not mainstream by any means but are very engaging and certainly create a very different look for a wrapped gift to stand out. They feature artwork created by a collective of artists.

KaleidEscapesKaleidEscapes shadowbox of Capitol Dome
LaGrave Designs'  KaleidEscapes are very eye-catching. These shadow boxes feature three-dimensional kaleidoscope-like designs created from photographic images. In addition to the handcrafted shadowboxes, LaGrave offers coasters and trivets of the imagery

Practical and Fun
Nantucket Bike Basket Company made its way across the country to the SFIGF to present its selection of baskets, originally designed as baskets to attach to the handlebar of a bicycle. But these practical baskets are being put to use in other ways as well. Their design with one flat side makes them ideal for also hanging on a wall as a planter or on the bathroom towel rack to hold rolled up towels, toiletries or bath items. There is also one designed with a cage-like cover for cycling with a small pet.

Munkees adds function to the keyring beyond just holding keys. The colorful animal shapes attached to the ring are more than decorative; they are also practical bottle openers. They make a great impulse item to stock near the checkout.

Tote + AbleTote + Able
It seems that these days, many people are carrying some sort of water bottle with them — whether it is a purchased bottled water or personal reusable water bottle or container to help us keep hydrated on the go. Tote + Able presented its take on beverages to go — beverage totes with a BPA-free bladder in a sturdy canvas cover. The totes come in a number of different designs and two sizes: 16 oz. water size and 750 ml. wine size. Each comes with a carabiner to clip to bag or belt.

For a different way to microwave potatoes and fresh veggies, Homecooked Shortcuts demonstrated the Corn-n-Tater microwave cooking bag made of a bamboo and cotton fabric. You just wrap the veggies in a damp paper towel, place in the bag and follow the cooking time instructions that come in the included cookbook. The cooking bag is machine washable and reusable.This method of cooking preserves more nutrients than other traditional ways.

The next San Francisco International Gift Fair will take place July 27-30 at the Moscone Center.

Caroline KennedyCaroline Kennedy | Editor in Chief, Gifts and Decorative Accessories

Editor-in-chief Caroline Kennedy has been with Gifts & Decorative Accessories magazine for more than 23 years. Her long association with the gift industry gives her a broad perspective on its trends and the ever-changing landscape of gift retailing. She brings her veteran's-eye view to the highlights and sidelights of our everyday world. When asked why she has stayed on the job for so long, her answer is, "It's like going shopping every day!"

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