I can easily say that our experience with Compass Rose Design at Pool Tradeshow was life-changing. It was like graduating from the local art & wine festival circuit. It was a great honor and absolutely positive experience to participate in this marketplace of emerging designers. I'll admit - I'm new to the fashion world and I was a bit apprehensive about what it meant to join this global marketplace of emerging and established brands and buyers of the wholesale marketplace.
IT WAS AMAZING - here's a bit about our journey.
LUCKILY - Pooltradeshow has the most amazing staff who approached us last year and especially Krystle who helped me understand that we were ready. She also convinced me to condense my beautifulbutexpensive catalog down to linesheets. At first I was hesitant, but this ended up being MOST helpful advice. I was able to represent the linesheet collection accented with some statement pieces with a bit of room to breathe. Unlike almost all of our friends and colleagues in the handmade community in the bay area, my husband and I are full time at Compass Rose Design - this is our livelihood and not a hobby. Pool answered our need to connect with buyers in other states and countries, though we had no idea what to expect. Based on our research, we went hoping to cover our costs and to aim for an average retail day.
We did not expect everything to go so smoothly. We arrived around 2pm and waited about 4 minutes for a loading spot. It took three small trips with our wheeled whatnot to load in everything and about an hour to set up. (I'd planned everything fairly precisely in our living room the week before).
We were a bit nervous about a few aspects of moving from direct to the wholesale market.
- We work with real antiques, so our work is limited edition.
- This also means that we have design families, but that each watch, button and antique object is slightly unique.
- Our work is also handmade, so we're operating at a scale where we can keep in touch with the history and sourcing of our materials.
These aspects of our brand have been a great asset to us in our four years of work. We find that people PREFER to have something that has a story and that they won't see on two other people at a cocktail party.
did a cash & carry booth - meaning we brought inventory to sell
on the floor. People are shopping for themselves, but there is also a
lot of testing out brands - buying small starter-collections to see how
the brand resonates with a store's clientele. We set out one of each
design and people selected their items from the selection "in front,"
and it worked well.
We could then refill any items from our backstock drawers. The tables are slightly tall and lined with cork, so we could store quite a lot of organized stock for people to go through. This ended up being a success - similar to one of our favorite booths at the National Button Society Conference, where you could go through neatly organized design families and choose what resonated with you. This worked particularly well with our watch rings and railroad button cuff links.
At one point, someone from a mega-brand asked us "how will the wholesalers find you if you're down here?" It made me realize that being at Pool was the perfect place for us to find the small independent boutiques we want to connect and work with.
And we found them! We connected with at least 10 independent boutique owners with 1-20 shops in their ownership. With our choice to work with authentic antiques and handmake our work in California - these were just the people we were looking for.
And people REALLY appreciated that our work was made in the USA by us. There is a market for lower price-points and quality that can (but do not necessarily) accompany overseas production. We were thrilled to see that there was an upwelling of appreciation about just that.
It was exciting to see some beautiful work and to get a look at designs before they hit the marketplace.
We also met lots of wonderful and stylish people. Again, as someone who has identified as a maker and jeweler more than a fashion industry person, I was incredibly moved by what I saw. People doing their thing, whatever that was.
Above, Stefan and Peder, 2 of the 3 founders of Moods of Norway - Peder on the right even gave me his tractor pin! The 3rd founder, Simen bought one of our vintage Railroad Button Rings!
Above and below - Lexx Perry - custom everything.
And the ladies of Lip Service, our neighbors.
A few of my favorite bay area colleagues, Tangleweeds Jewelry and Isobell were also at the show in the Cash & Carry section with us. It was invaluable to have them to touch base with and chat throughout the day.
And, honestly, as someone who expected to dislike Vegas, I found people to be hard working and friendly. The food was super expensive but very good. The drinks were strong. I didn't need to gamble even a quarter as a novelty. With very few exceptions, people seem to be reasonable and kind.
At the end of it all, even one of the set-up crew purchased a couple necklaces for he and his wife. The crew was awesome - I can't even begin to imagine the logistics of these shows - but they were awesome to the last. I think the most challenging part of the tradeshow was the schlepping, but even that was not so bad, thanks to my awesome husband and 2 small wheely-things. The walking was invigorating and the line at the coffee spot was shorter at the Luxor.
We'll be back in August. We hope to be beginning a journey that continues to connect people with storied antiques and support art and local commerce at small boutiques where people value handmade. What did I learn about being in the fashion world? To be myself. To trust my art. That people are kind.
Thank you Pool!
Thank you Las Vegas!