Wednesday, September 17, 2014

NEW YORK NOW- Day 2: Official Opening Day of the Show - Before Noon


The show opened with an astounding shift in focus, at Pier 94, typically reserved for the higher-end, more interesting and expensive home furnishings. We checked in and were immediately in the middle of what was billed as, NY NOW- Artisan Resource Show, a first for me on my annual treks to this Big Apple show. The show was organized with the help of by hand consulting, a private consulting company that aligns buyers sourcing new artisan products with the artisan enterprises seeking those buyers.

Artisan Resource, which was created as a first-of-its-kind artisan production-sourcing event to fill what the show’s producers see as an increasing demand for handmade artisan and socially responsible products.
Artisan Resource exhibitors were selected for their commitment to design innovation, cultural preservation, social enterprise and sustainability.

The show premise was that an artisan resource should include community participation in each product, allow the process to be shown in the design and product and homespun impurities to be shown, for the artisan’s touch to be seen, for the maker’s name and story to be highlighted and to keep artisan craftsmanship, traditional methods, techniques and cultural heritage thriving.

Exhibitors were mostly from countries that are very rarely if ever represented at an international trade show included Afghanistan, Brazil, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Morocco, Nepal, Niger, Pakistan, Philippines, Peru, South Africa, Tajikistan, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan.  
Product categories included Gift, Home D├ęcor, Textiles, Tabletop, Stationery, Jewelry, and Fashion Accessories made from materials of ceramics, glass, metal, leather, natural fibers, recycled materials, and paper.

There were three exhibitors that stood out to us as exemplary: ECHOstore from the Philippines, Wayra from Peru, and Azizi from Rwanda.

We were particularly impressed with ECHOstore (Environment & Community Hope Organization), which showcased the textile-based products of the GREAT Women Project (Gender Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation of Women), groups or tribes of woman that are indigenous to the Philippines. They had rolls of beautiful Inabel textiles (a hand woven textile that is intimately connected to the people who create them) made by the tribeswomen, woven and dyed using vegetable dyes.

According to an article on, Inabel fabric is hand woven on ancient looms by Filipino women. It takes 2 weeks just to set up a pattern on a loom and a loom can produce only about 2 meters of fabric a day. The process is intricate and time-consuming, but the fabrics are positively gorgeous. 

Today, there are less than ten Inabel master weavers alive. They warn that within a generation, the Inabel tradition may vanish - unless we do something about it. To learn more follow this link:   

ECHOstore gives market access to small or marginalized groups, gathering local products that represent ideals of health, fair trade, and care for the environment. Products highlight and support local cultural traditions, and artisan skills.

ECHOstore also created Echo Design Lab (EDL), a program of that addresses the sustainability, “leveling/valuing products up” by refining them or suggesting new designs; helps the group with visual identity development and new packaging; highlights their unique stories; helps create more products for a global and lifestyle market. Materials and their sources are also studied, as well as new product variants that could be developed from the existing products.


We also loved learning about Wayra (means wind in the native language Quechua- the native language of
the Incas), is one of the biggest producers of organic textiles and the only certified fair-trade company in
The only certified fair trade company in Peru? Just one? Wow!

The company was founded just nine years ago by Mercedes Benavides, when she wanted to create jobs for women in small mining communities in the highlands of Peru. She gathered the women of the villages to discuss different sustainable opportunities to create an income for them and after some pondering they all agreed that their special skill was to make beautiful Christmas ornaments that they could sell. The cheerful ornaments were the start of a company that today sells their products the world over.

Wayra has expanded to produce handmade textiles for custom and private label textiles using natural, luxurious fibers such as alpaca wool, cotton, wool and other Peruvian blends, producing throws, bed blankets, pillows, shams, sweaters, gloves, shawls, scarves, hats and many other hand knitted, hand loomed, and hand crocheted products that are sold around the globe.

I felt a particular kinship to this next organization, Azizi Life,  because their program was based in Rwanda. We had supported (in a small way) a program through our church, All Saints by the Sea in Montecito, CA, which provided farm animals to woman who had survived the genocide in Rwanda, who are now widows raising their children. As a matter of fact, one Christmas when my daughter had put a designer handbag on her Christmas list, we opted instead to give her a certificate for one goat that was given in her name to the woman of Rwanda! To her credit, she seemed to cherish that gift.

Azizi Life's vision is: "to participate in local initiatives for the development of Rwandan
communities working towards physical and spiritual wholeness for all"

Artisans are paid an agreed-upon fair wage as soon as their products are received by the organization. The additional income from the sale of their art allows the craftspeople & their families to afford many things that they struggled to get before such as medical insurance, school materials for their children, soap and other cleaning products for hygiene, better food and diet improving nutrition, and even farm animals that provide manure which improves soil quality and crop yield.

The financial independence to purchase these kinds of things provides a real sense of security and hope for the future for the artist and her whole family, and the organization of the various groups of artisans breeds community and helps to heal the pain that so many in this county suffered.

Another exhibitor that really took our eye, and our first order was Makaua, which means "hand to hand", and "giving a hand" in the ancient Nahuatl (Aztec) language. Made from the sustainable palm fiber form Southern Mexico. The company was started in 2002 and today numbers over 700 people.

A great color palette was key to our interest.

Elegant thin wall construction.

We loved the woven Ottomans, available in any of their color combinations. 

We loved the scale of the baskets, the color blocking and the numerous options for each.
The Ottomans came in three sizes, medium size Ottoman shown above. 

Not all of the artisan exhibitors were non-profits, and one of our favorites was Manifest Destiny, a contemporary jeweler from India founded in just 2012. The jewelry is cast in bronze from designs that begin as clay sculptures.


We bought some well priced artisan made throws (photo, below) from some young guys representing their family's firm, Saurashtra, back in Jaipur. We had to buy from what they physically had at the show, or miss out- so we got down on the floor and made our selections.
A humorous vendor was Loopy Mango, photo below. She had knitting kits that came with giant skeins of yarn and giant wooden knitting needles with which to knit them.

Also at the Pier, but not part of Artisan Resource was LuLu DK (Lulu deKwiatkowski), our friend and fabric designer from Los Angeles. Lulu is known for her colorful fabrics- for both indoors and outdoors, as well a children's textile collection, and a collection of luxury sheeting from Cabana Home bedding vendor, MATOUK New York.

LuLu DK Designer, Lulu de Kwiatkowski,

LuLu DK Designer, Lulu de Kwiatkowski, gives me the thumbs up at the mob scene at her booth.

So, yes we were surprise when we spotted Lulu in the middle of a mob scene- I figured a press event  for the photogenic designer but on closer examination, after we'd jockeyed our way through the crowd, she was selling only the latest trend, Flash Tattoos!

Just the day before this, while sitting on the beach with our daughter in St. Martin, she was telling me about these new "Flash Tat's" (temporary metallic tattoos that look like jewelry). "So cool", she exhorted, just the day before! So, Lulu, you were on it!

Sales girls in the swamped LuLu DK booth show of their "Flash Tat's".
Whew, what a fun morning! Yes, that was just the first half of the day. Stay tuned for "NEW YORK NOW- Day 2: Official Opening Day of the Show - After Noon.

Before I go, I have a Worst of Show for you, though I kind of don't want to show it because I'm embarrassed for us all - it was made in America!
Why couldn't it have been made in Ghana, or Micronesia?
Anyway, here goes:

Good night moon

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

NEW YORK NOW- Day 1: Shopping the City Part II

As we finished up our day of shopping, we happened on one of the best domestically owned new home stores, Michael Dawkins Home (232 E. 59th Street) with shops in New York and Miami. The store has great style and a specific point of view-- both refreshing-- a great option for those that demand more in personal style than the “RA” look which seems to have taken American style hostage.

Among our favorite things were the Anglo-Indian furniture reproductions with traditional Indian inlaid bone, but all on contemporary style mirror frame, pictured below. We also loved the use of multiple cocktail tables gathered together in front of a Sofa, each in a different style with varying heights, shapes and sizes.

Well executed Anglo-Indian Reproductions
Trend Alert: Multiple Cocktail Tables

Fendi Casa (153 Madison Avenue) has opened their US flagship home furnishings store in NYC, and it does not disappoint, on two floors. The fashion house is in the home furnishings business, not only for themselves but they also produce a line of furniture for Bentley (yes, as in the car company). Granted the style maybe a bit far out for conservative California but it's executed like a fine Fendi handbag. We loved the “Cat” pouf with its wooden Fendi chain just like on their handbags; we again saw the use of multiple cocktail tables gathered together in different heights (a trend?) in front of seating areas, and the white linen SOHO sectional detailed in leather. Sofas and Sectionals were shown with multiple Cocktail tables here as well.

The "Cat" pouf at Fendi Casa

Multiple cocktail tables at Fendi Casa

We loved the SOHO Sectional, upholstered in white linen, framed and trimmed in Saddle leather. A luxe detail -- cushion seams outlined in very small matching leather trim (see last SOHO photo).

 Above: The SOHO Sectional by Fendi Casa
Below: The corners of each seating piece is connected by a leather belt

 Above: The exposed frame of the SOHO Sectional is covered in saddle leather

Below: Cushion seams are outlined in fine leather trim 

The most interesting piece was Fendi Casa's SYNI Buffet (shown below) which slides open from either end to reveal the most accessible storage.

There was also Fendi Cucina, with an Alligator paneled refrigerator with silver double reversed "F" handles, and cabinets with leather drawer bottoms embossed with the reversed “F”.   

Fendi Cucina (Kitchen) lacquered cabinets

The Fendi refrigerator is covered in faux alligator and features the double "F" hardware

The Fendi cabinet drawers are lined in double "F" embossed faux leather

The Bentley Furniture collection was predictably car-like: Chairs with lacquered burled wood detailing and leather upholstery, a quilted white leather  dog bed that will fit in the floor board of your Bentley… you get the picture.  

A Bentley Club Chair in signature quilted Bentley leather and sheathed in the automakers famed Burled wood   
The Bentley Dog Bed in signature quilted Bentley leather

Across the street from Fendi Casa was what looked like a junk store on Madison Avenue! It was the salvage company, Olde Good Things which had some of the original marble fireplace surrounds salvaged from the last Plaza Hotel remodel, a bevy of period lighting, hardware, and furniture. One of the best pieces we saw in all of New York was here, a fabulous 7ft. tall X 10ft wide, 1960's solid cast Bronze screen which was so MAD MAN, and of course madly expensive.

What a surprise: A salvage yard on Madison Avenue!

Marble fireplace surround salvaged from the recently remodeled Plaza Hotel
Above and Below: A random find at a salvage yard: An antique hand held, lighted mirror. Black ebony handle, beveled glass, and silver filigree back. The light bulb is protected by the mirrors stand- pretty dang smart.

We made a quick stop at our passementerie (trim) supplier, based in the city, to see their newest collection. We loved the new leather tassels, the bright summer silks trims, and the mid-century metal tiebacks designed by Lori Weitzner.

Nearly Neon bright trim

New leather tassels

Lori Weitzner designed metal tiebacks in her signature geometric style

We rushed back to the hotel to change clothes for our one Broadway play on this trip, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar Grill, starring Audra McDonald.

McDonald won the Tony for Best Actress for her portrayal of the drug addicted Billie Holiday, in her portrayal of Holiday's last live performance at the fading bar and grill. One scene (pictured above) is of Holiday bringing her dog Roxie (actually a rescue dog from Hurricane Katrina) onstage in an attempt to cheer herself up. It was a tough watching the story of the iconic Billie Holiday self destruct from her addiction to alcohol and heroin in front of an audience.


Whew, what a day! After the play we headed out for a civilized late dinner at famed chef Daniel Boulud's BOULUD SUD Restaurant (20 W. 64th Street) adjacent to Lincoln Center. The food was terrific and is "Mediterranean-inspired". Caroline had the fish and I had the lamb- both fabulous. The interior is in the art deco style and features a large scale pair of art works by artist Vik Munoz.

A pair of works by artist Vik Munoz center the restaurant

We toured (more like trespassed) the wine cellar and private dining rooms downstairs, and left through a back stair that led up to Boulud's BAR BOULUD, and his  Epicerie Boulud. Is there anything Boulud doesn't do?   

The wine cellar at Boulud Sud

 A wall in the private Dining room at Boulud Sud: Antique corkscrews framed in Plexiglass

Whew- finally, the day was over and we headed home so we could rest up for day 2.
Lastly, I usually end with Worst in Show- but since the show hasn't opened yet and this was shopping the city, we'll call the next few photographs, YIKES!

A baby grand piano sheathed in faux alligator. Yes, that is a bar coming out of the back leg! YIKES!

It just must have been the day of the tacky piano: A malachite encrusted piano with gold ormolu mounts. YIKES!

In a liquor store window: Don't ask, don't tell. YIKES!

All for now.

Good Night Moon