What a wonderful time I had in New York with my work for Keena attending the winter NY Now show. Flying out on Super Bowl Sunday I arrived at our Air B&B in Chelsea just in time to catch Bruno Mars during halftime and share a beer with the neighbors. The storm started with a light sprinkle just as the game was ending and turned into snow overnight to my delight waking up the next morning. I pulled on all my layers and big wool coat and hit the streets to walk to the Javits Center, which was no easy feat. 

Once inside I spent the first half of the day working my shift at the fabulous Roost booth of home furnishings which is always a pleasure. After lunch I managed to find my friend Darcy Lee, owner of Heartfelt, the wonderful gift store in my Bernal Heights neighborhood. We found we had both worn our navy blue dresses and posed for a photo at the Kikkerland booth. I also stopped by one of our new vendors, Kinto where Denis Dumas and Keena partner Adriana Mello were chatting. Kinto is a beautiful collection of tabletop products for tea and coffee along with Tete, a handmade dinnerware collection from Japan.  I also stopped by Bob's Your Uncle to see Michelle and Martin Yeeles who did a great job with their booth display, having constructed a picnic table with parts from Ikea, topped with a vintage runner to compliment their Russell Wright dinnerware.


I had made plans to attend a reception and conversation sponsored by the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise on the topic of Common Threads: Social Justice and the Runway, being held at the Mondrian in SoHo. The speakers were Paul van Zyl and Kristy Caylor from Maiyet and Rebecca van Bergan from Nest. Unfortunately the snow had piled up everywhere while we were inside the Javits, and everyone and their mother was trying to get a cab at the same time. My boss Catharine Keena and Adriana were heading out to the boathouse in Central Park for the Gift for Life annual fundraiser and convinced to to come along, as there was no way I was going to be able to attend both events with the traffic conditions that evening.

After a few wrong directions and some trudging around in the snowy park, we knew we'd finally arrived when we saw the glowing boathouse and heard the din of the crowd. The coat line was longer than the drink line but soon I had my glass of wine and found friends I knew from my work with 12 Small Things, all at one table in the dining room; Mimi Robinson, Sylvia Moreira, Carol MacNulty, Patti Carpenter and Leslie Mittelberg. We had a delicious dinner and more wine and soon the award ceremony began, honoring Clare Brett Smith, former president of Aid to Artisans. After the ceremony I snuck outside to the snow covered patio and took a selfie before returning to join Catharine and Adriana with the Kikkerland gang who were enjoying cucumber vodkas to stay warm.


The next day was my day to spend sourcing new product for 12 Small Things. Walking through the Handmade section at the Javits Center I came across Meyelo, a beautifully displayed collection of fine beadwork, sandals and and handbags from Kenya. I was also smitten with the wonderful summer dresses shown at Mata Traders made by fait trade artisans in India and Nepal. And one of my favorite companies was Raven and Lily, from Austin Texas, supporting fair trade fashion from Kenya, India, Cambodia and Ethiopia.

I next headed over to the Artisans Resource on Pier 94 where my friends Karen Gibbs and Colvin English from By Hand Consulting, help bring artisan groups from around the world to show their products to gift show attendees interested in direct imports. I found Karen with Matat from Mexico who have beautiful hand-embroidered pillows and handbags. I also saw my friend Tahira from Zardozi representing Afghan artisans, who showed me their new collection of delicate blouses made of lightweight cotton which I am definitely bringing in for my summer collection. She also showed me some terrific new handbags made from recycled burkas which I also may need to feature.


My last stop was at the booth of Soko, where I met the founder Gwendolyn Floyd and Meredith Ragno, her business associate. Their company had been referred to me by Karen, as she knew I'd like their smartly designed jewelry from Kenya, with youthful but sophisticated fashion sense. They have an advantage in the business with their background in mobile and social technology, which they hope to use to connect artisans around the world to global markets. I couldn't help but buy a number of samples to feature on my website and also show to Adriana and Catharine at Keena.


I left the Piers feeling very inspired by all the new young companies I'd seen, embracing both fashion and fair trade in a contemporary business model, set up to succeed with a lot of energy, intelligence and style. Kind of contagious. Before leaving New York I was able to fit in a breakfast with my former employee from the Gap advertising department, Carl Byrd. Carl is now married to his partner of many years, has an adorable little girl and runs a successful business directing film and television commercials. A lot can happen in twenty years! Heading back to San Francisco, I felt so inspired by all the creative people and products I'd seen in New York and flew home full of wonderful possibilities for what's next.                                                                      

March 03, 2014 by Laurie Kanes