The true enjoyment of Top Drawer can be found two ways, having an unlimited fund from which to make orders. I wish. Or have a specific goal to achieve whilst your there and don't be afraid to be really specific or weird with it.
For the last few years; after the shows growth bubble, I give my self a theme to search out. Otherwise I could look at everything, be there forever and remember NONE OF IT. It's impossible to pay attention for the length of time you need to actually consider all the brands and then also go back for orders/chats/info.
If your not sure what to look out for there are some helpful hints in their booklet, follow a trend that suits you, or perhaps scan their trails to seek out something new. And my TOP TIP is rule of 3; talk to someone you know, talk to someone you've researched (found on the exhibitors list, social, invited you, told about) and finally talk to someone who you wouldn't think will interest you.
There is always an interesting conversation to have at Top Drawer especially the new year addition as people are going through the motions of a trade show but sometimes not as sales focused as they tend to be at Christmas time.
I sat in on a couple of talks on the Monday, the topics included sustainability and multiple use spaces both really interesting. (Question would you like some notes from these?)
I started where I always do with the largest selection of independents; craft, pulse & spotted sections are upstairs in the side hall. Lots of British start ups & artists feature smaller stands, their first product ranges and sometimes the most stand out displays. Simple & quality is usually my top tips for first timers and its what I still look for today.
This rainbow was a popular choice and from the lovely Francesca who you'll recognise from market life. Her vibrant terrazzo pieces were arranged on simple floor to ceiling shelves but they created a cathedral of colour that perfectly displayed the range available as well as their instant impact in-store and at home.
A new find also in the Pulse section was the first notch on my theme for the visit - global crafts. The Columbia Collective was a bold emerald corner stand with a riot of colour but the true draw was the stunning detail. High end pieces carefully chosen for those with a discerning eye for well made cultural beautiful homeware and accessories.
The Columbia Collective
This year the Home section was split in two, contemporary and classic and to be honest what was the main hall has become a little sad, the growth of the more general gift section means what's left are the large brands. They mostly have the same offering in real life that you can get from their very thorough catalogue or wholesale website so lack any need to visit. The true finds are in the secondary hall and are a practical geographic pub quiz of brands. From Sweden to South Africa lots of brands are including their country of origin prominently on their stand. There are also more brands built around a melding of global cultures to create their own design style and craft footprint.
I love Liv interiors, founded by a duo one from Copenhagen the other Pakistan creating this ethical product wonderland, full of recycled or reclaimed materials handmade in to well crafted textiles and accessories with real heritage.
A trio of decorative storage geniuses whom were all in a perfect line (hidden away behind Coach House, what a shame) were educating you on weaves, processes & cultures from Kenya, Eswatini & Morocco respectively. These sort of brands really scratch that part of my brain that likes to learn new skills, or watch detail orientated making videos each piece is one a kind, handmade and expresses the kind of world that needs to exist more. Collaborations between brands and makers that develop and market traditional craftsmanship so they don't die out.
The Basket Room - Gone Rural - Bohemia Design
A brand that I know of but don't normally stop at, Ian Snow caught my attention with a couple of nice details. They swapped their plastic packaging for recycled sari's and this Bohemian vintage style legacy brand is still curated out of a Devon barn. Bringing bright Indian exploration to your home.
Then a brand I had not heard of before, a more child friendly but craft heavy ethos, A world of Craft By Afroart collaborates with local artisans to highlight the craftsmanship of developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Established in Stockholm in 1967 their stand was a real folk art hotspot, very child friendly and eclectic in style, soft and welcoming.
A world of Craft
I am missing several good sections including greeting & wellbeing but was already full of ideas by this point so left to think them through rather than pile them on but the booklet/cards/press packs sit on my desk for quiet moments of research. I flag brands throughout the year to look back in on each season to see what they are up to and how we might connect.
Here's a list of almost... all of the other people I talked to or wanted to stop at this year incase your looking for some talented people to learn a little more about and maybe have some interesting conversations of your own.
Wolfram Lohr - Paige Mitchell Ceramics - Linescapes - Alice Funge Ceramics - Indigowares - Batch Works - Stolen Form - Donna Wilson - Penguin Inks - Studio Wald - The Organic Company - Liga - Yamazaki - Morgan Wright - Edinburgh Honey - The Completist - Lorna Syson
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