The NY NOW event is a home, lifestyle, and handmade product trade show held at the Jacob K. Javits Center on the edge of Manhattan’s west side in New York City. Produced twice-annually, the trade-only wholesale show attracts thousands of global suppliers and buyers from specialty retail stores.
I attended the August 15 – 19, 2015 edition of the show upon invitation of the organizers of Artisan Resource to do a seminar called “Concept to Reality: Turning ideas into artisan-right product and processes.” Based on my experience as a fashion designer and trend forecaster from New York who has also worked with artisans in Southeast Asia, I presented a step-by-step guide to the design and product development process.
I also visited two of the three handmade portions of the show – Artisan Resource and Handmade Global Design – and chose my top ten exhibitors to share. Jewelry designers made a strong showing with Sidai Designs, Kaligarh, and Soko leading the way. Read below and learn how these ethical fashion and lifestyle brands have created contemporary designs using traditional techniques.
Attendees of Artisan Resource portion of NY NOW were able to meet overseas artisan enterprises who were showcasing their products and production capabilities at export terms from the country of origin – connecting US-based importers with international producers and exporters. Exhibitors were chosen to participate in Artisan Resource for their design innovation, cultural preservation, social enterprise and sustainability.
Aissata Namoko founded Cooperative Djiguiyaso to help impoverished women in Bamako, Mali transition to the workplace. In 2004, she and other volunteers with business experience established a workshop where women make products with local cotton. Cooperative Djiguiyaso’s indigo dyed items on display at Artisan Resource were a deep, rich blue – handmade in their community using natural indigo dye.
Fibre Tibet‘s super soft collection of shawls, scarves, and blankets are made from Tibetan cashmere collected by nomads near Mount Kailash. The cashmere is woven by Tibetan, Newari, and Nepali women in Kathmandu, Nepal. The brand – which is based in Washington DC – has a logo is the endless knot, a Buddhist symbol that represents interdependence and eternal harmony.
Kaligarh means artisan in Nepali. Inspired by the depth and diversity of the Himalaya and the traditional motifs and methods of the local people, Kaligarh was founded in 2013 by Jyoti Upadhyay. Her jewelry collection is handcrafted by independent and small-sale artisans in the Kathmandu Valley.
Riri is a Kenyan social enterprise founded by a vibrant woman named Njuhi Chege. Inspired by the Kenyan landscape, Njuhi makes jewelry using semi-precious stones, brass and upcycled materials such as horn and bone, wood, and glass. She works with artisans to advance youth enterprise as a strategy for peace building. Her sister crafts clutches that are made in a similar way to traditional Kenyan beaded neckpieces.
Saurashtra Jewels & Arts
Hailing from Jaipur in Rajasthan, India Saurashtra Jewels & Arts showcased a selection of traditional textiles featuring quilts made from recycled cloth with running stitches, which have been made by women at home for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. With the recent popularization of these quilts in the West, most are referred to as kantha quilts, yet kanthas are traditionally from Bengal while ralli quilts are created in Sindh, Pakistan, western India. The handiwork, color, and patterns are beautiful by any name. I was also drawn to the Saurashtra Jewels & Arts booth at NY NOW by the black and white motif on the woven blanket.
Sidai Designs collaborates with Maasai women in Tanzania to make beaded jewelry using traditional techniques with a contemporary aesthetic. Their ethically produced and handmade product stood out at NY NOW because of their fresh designs which honors the traditional art of the Maasai people. To founders Eszter Rabin and Emanuel Melubo, working with Maasai women means more than empowering them as individuals, but benefiting and engaging their entire community.
Handmade Global Design
Handmade Global Design was a portion of NY NOW with 150 global import resources focusing on traditional craftsmanship and good design, as well as community building through global artisan workshops. Many of these exhibitors were US-based companies that work with artisan cooperatives and were required to have US distribution and wholesale pricing capabilities.
Creative Women believes in preserving rich artisanal traditions and creating long-term, sustainable incomes. Owner Jenny Cleveland and the Creative Women team works with women-led textile studios around the world and its market supports more than 40 full-time artisan jobs in Ethiopia, where most of their textiles are handwoven from local cotton.
Indego Africa is a nonprofit social enterprise & lifestyle brand based in New York City that supports women in Rwanda through economic empowerment and education. As impressive as their brightly-colored handmade baskets are, check out Indego Africa’s annual Impact Reports which measures the social impact of their work on women’s lives in Rwanda.
Soko is an ethical fashion brand that offers modern jewelry made from quality materials by artisans in East Africa. They are proud to have generated nearly $500,000 in income for their artisans in Kenya in the last year which contributed to a 4x average increase of household income for each artisan. Soko has also developed an innovative supply chain that connects artisans from developing countries directly to customers by mobile phone. In addition to these accomplishments, Soko’s design and superb styling made them a stand-out booth at NY NOW.
The Mayan Store
Based in Guatemala City, The Mayan Store is a company dedicated to the design and production of handmade home decor and personal accessories that highlights traditional artisanal techniques of Central America. Founders Diego Olivero and Gonzalo Pertile care about the preservation of Mayan cultural heritage, and promoting environmental and social awareness.
The next edition of NY NOW will take place January 30 – February 3rd, 2016.