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Direct from Market: California Gift Show, January 2014

California Gift ShowEven the Super Bowl and simultaneous shows happening across several cities (Las Vegas, New York, and Los Angeles) didn't do much to dampen the enthusiasm—or attendance numbers-at this year's California Gift Show. A DJ spinning upbeat ambient music on turntables welcomed new arrivals, along with a diverse array of exhibitors in the LA Convention Center's Kentia and South Halls.

DJ at California Gift ShowDJ sets energetic vibe
"The excitement of the shows is coming back," says Jhana Jordan, director of key accounts for show producer Urban Expositions, adding that they plan to expand the show further this summer. "The shows are starting to grow again, and a lot of it is based on these new, amazing Etsy companies and small businesses." (She singles out Heart the Moment paper tiaras and Attic Journals as two of the exhibitors leading the charge in this realm.)

Mamas LMama's Little Babies
Homegrown and Proud

Signage proudly proclaiming "Made in the U.S.A." was a common sight in the aisles (especially in the Handmade section). And according to Jordan, it was a major draw for attendees: "Buyers have been asking about it; it really shows how the dynamics are changing in the marketplace." Among those advertising their domestic roots were Stone (hand-poured coconut wax candles made in Santa Monica); Verbena Botanicals (organic soaps made in Oregon); Mama's Little Babies (Victorian-inspired illustration jewelry made in Santa Cruz); and Barrel Werks (home furnishings and accessories made from recycled/reclaimed wine barrels).

Dana HerbertDana Herbert
It's also a point of pride-and profit-for exhibitor Dana Herbert. "[Made in America] is much more of a selling point than it once was," says Herbert, whose eponymous accessory line is produced in Portland with many fabrics made in North Carolina. "I've noticed in the last year that people are asking about it and appreciating [domestically made products] more."

Other growth areas at this year's show included Fair Trade, Eco-Friendly, and Handmade product areas.

PisidiaPisidia
New and Noteworthy

Making its inaugural debut at the show was Impostor Art, a pop art collection of large-format paint-by-numbers designs. Catering to all skill levels, selections range from owls to Day of the Dead-themed art to recreations of works by artists like Patti Kelly and Vivian Gerber; canvases are available in either 18"x18" or 36"x36" formats.

Fresh off its own January debut at the Atlanta show, Pisidia was another first-time exhibitor at the California Gift Show. This vibrant line of silicone handbags is eco-friendly, all natural and toxin free, and they feature a hand-stitched interior. A portion of the proceeds from every handbag sold goes to breast cancer research. The Pisidia bags will also be featured in the upcoming Oscar gifting suites and carried on the red carpet by select starlets.

Painted BirdPainted Bird
Fancy Feet

Another new exhibitor was Painted Bird out of Southern California. Described as "espadrilles-meet-ballet-flats," these hand-crocheted shoes feature rubber soles and leather interiors. In March, the company's "Baby Birds" collection for kids will be debuting online.

Also exhibiting for the first time was Madil. The brainchild of Concord, CA-based entrepreneur Devra Elze. these beachy flip-flops come in five colors and can be customized with various bands and charms. Elze's inspiration was her three sons, all of whom compete on a local swim team. "I spent a lot of time at the pool watching girls accessorize everything but the flip-flop," says Elze. Now those girls can buy the Madil flops, which are either sold in a bundle with a matching band and charm or ala carte "basics."

Intu ArtIntu Art
Out of Africa

One of the most popular exhibitors in Kentia Hall was Intu-Art, a South African pottery workshop. Highly intricate in design, all of the pieces are hand-sculpted and handcrafted by a collective of 20 local artists; each is signed by both the sculptor and painter who created them.

Il BereIl Bere
Raise Your Glass

The Serendipity Sales booth was showcasing several new products, such as the Chillaerator and Il Bere wine charms. Available in six colors (such as "Bubblegum" and "Frost"), the Chillaerator combines a freezable chiller rod with an attached aerator for use with both red and white wine. The highly magnetic Il Bere wine charms attach to the side of a wine glass; many are created from vintage earrings, incorporating everything from rhinestones to brooches.

Shine Mark AccessoriesInfinity scarves by Shine Mark Accessories
Anchors Aweigh

One of Il Bere's wine charm designs was indicative of a common thread at the 2014 California Gift Show: anchors. From infinity scarves to jewelry to tank tops, anchor-themed items were one of this year's biggest trends, and Kimmie Carter's spirited apparel/jewelry line was no exception. With a tagline of "Spread Anchor Love," this Scottsdale, AZ-based designer and new exhibitor launched her online store last May. Also sporting anchor love was Wish Jewelry out of San Pedro and Rafia/Vidakush out of Culver City.

Flamingo ZoneFlamingo Zone
Making It Fun

Interactive displays also attracted attention on the floor. One of the busiest booths was Mo You, which offered manicure demos of their nail art kits. Ray and Karen Brisebois of Sausalito, CA-based Flamingo Zone, also created an innovative display booth by transporting potential buyers into their catalog spread via a printer and DIY photo backdrop-asking customers to model their glittery, kitschy sunglass line. "We've been doing the trade show circuit since November, and this [approach] has really helped our sales," says Karen. "We've been seeing our best numbers ever."

The next California Gift Show will take place July 18-21 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

 

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