Friday, February 13, 2009

Fair Trade at the NYIGF

In January, I helped prepare a friend's booth space and attended the NYIGF. It would be my second time to attend and my first to see what it entails to work the other end. It was an interesting lesson.
In this economy, I decided not to have my own booth. I had gone to Botswana this summer in the hopes of finding more wholesale possibilities and growing Women's Work beyond the storefront. I was able to find three producers including the pottery, the canvas and the skincare/natural papers/ceramics which all could be made at greater quantities. But after much deliberation, the show would have been an expensive risk that I couldn't justify.
While I think everyone I know that did have a booth was grateful for orders (any orders!), it was a slow show. What was evident as I walked around was that the Handmade section was busy with many first time inquiries and orders. Every time I went to visit my friend Harish and his wife Poonam of Sustainable Threads, a slew of buys would come. I was so happy for them.
At Pier 90, there were a surprising number of buyers out there - I don't know that I would venture there if I didn't know Project Have Hope was there. She was also located near Africa Now! a joint booth funded in part by USAID. Global Mama's was represented and so were various basket weaving groups, shea butter producers, drum makers etc, mostly from Ghana with many producers on hand. In cooperation with the Trade Hub, a store in DC was offering distribution of the crafts/products. So, at the show, you could either order from the producer directly or order from the shop. A perfect model in order to encourage sustainability in the African producer group and foster relations with a retailer. How do I get the producers I work with such exposure? I'll have to keep investigating.
Peter and I discussed where we were going with the crafts. With each new opportunity that confronts us, we take the time to look at all of the possibilities and try to remove our old prejudices and our over-riding egos. While my ego would love to do the gift show, the success of my business must rely on the realities...the world is going through a much needed downsizing, re-evaluation of values, and much needed check and balance. The producers can only produce so much - the last thing we want is a factory of ostrich eggshell beads. And what am I really trying to accomplish? The answer is evident, but the process is muddled. . . as clarity comes, so will my next posting.

No comments: