Toppers are essentials at markets – from Atlanta to San Francisco

By Tomi Morris Johnson tomij@wingcomltd.com

Photos by Kurk and Tomi Johnson   ©2004 WingcomLtd. All Rights Reserved. 

July 2004…Gift shows are usually filled with aisles, booths, and tables of pretty “stuff” and nervous buying decisions.  This year WingcomLtd decided to focus on goods that are becoming necessities – toppers – which led us from the East Coast to the West Coast in search of extraordinary hats, crowns, garlands and shades.

Headpieces are not only flamboyant but culturally expressive. Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry talk about hats in their book Crowns. “Countless black women would rather go to church naked than hatless.” If that’s the case, everyone needs a new one, which causes headwear to be a growing staple in a trendy fashion diet.

Stopping first in Atlanta’s AmericasMart, we took the opportunity to try on a reproduction of the tiara worn by Princess Diana of Wales on her wedding day. 

Ancestors of Dover owner Nicholas Dyson (l) and marketing representative allow

Tomi Johnson to model the Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara reproduction.

Ancestors of Dover, in business for twelve years, recently purchased Crowns and Regalia Ltd. Their handmade crowns are wearable art signifying history.  “This piece represents the wedding gift Queen Elizabeth gave to Princess Diana on the day she married Prince Charles,” Dyson said. “The first copy of the beautiful bow knot tiara was made by Garrard's, the crown jeweler, and it’s a family heirloom. Our version has a retail cost of $1200.”

Fiber Optic Innovations, first time exhibitors at Atlanta’s AmericasMart, showcased their lighted team hats that are very popular with sports enthusiasts.

Gail Foushee’s hat designs originated with the 1940’s Sugar Plum Ballroom look.  “I’ve just recently finished a movie in Los Angeles based on the 1946 radio show Sky King in which I designed the retro hats.  That was kind of a cool thing. I have branched out from the retro design to the cutting edge/funky hat. My goal is to be on the New York runway.” The retail cost of her hats range from $90 to $125.  

The Atlanta show was chaotic yet rewarding for retailers wanting to stock their stores. "The unending quest for new discoveries brought retailers from across the U.S. and around the world to AmericasMart Atlanta this summer. July's two extraordinary markets, co-staged in a single setting and complete with unmatched product access drawn from across all home furnishings and gift product categories, promised to deliver a market experience full of unimagined opportunities...and it did," said Mike Turnbull, senior vice president.

Buyers topped mashed potatoes in martini glasses during after hours social.

Fancy shade topped risqué        showroom lamp.

Streamers topped atrium in Apparel Mart.

The San Francisco Gift Mart – Summer 2004

Escalators in the Moscone Center were clear while buyers walked the wide aisled SF Gift show.

The San Francisco Gift Mart was more relaxed and laid back when compared to the Atlanta show.  This type atmosphere, perhaps, was a “California” thing, but buyers seemed not to be as pressured to make buying decisions.  There were no freebies being handed out – no free bags, buttons, or samples. The show featured a new “Details” category. Aisles were wide, booths well organized and labeled, and exhibitors were down to earth.

Joanna Vorgeas, who designs whimsical garlands and headbands for women and girls, was one of the local venders. “I live close by, and this is our neighborhood, so that’s one of the reasons we’re here. I’m glad we have a corner booth! Our look is very eclectic. The products are light, easy to wear, and made from net so you can add flowers and other things to make an elaborate hairpiece if you want. They’re fun!”

Joanna Vorgeas of Mango Too

Onigo’s hat rollups, Redfish’s suede crushers, and Mr. Funky’s hand crocheted beanies were displayed at SF Gift Show.

Mr. Funky’s Designer/Owner Narumi Ogawa combines antique and contemporary styles and colors. “I was a music major in college, but I started making stuffed animals. I went to yarn stores, took classes, and then just taught myself the business. I think the ‘Details’ section of the show is perfect for my product. I design and crochet them all by myself. They are not machine made. The most important thing is making a quality product.”

Amanda Wilczynski of Redfish Designs says her products are manufactured in China. The owner of the company was born and raised in Shanghai. “This season we’re featuring a lot of knit caps, and a new style for us is the 100% suede crusher hat which is very stylish and catered towards any age group.” Comparing the Atlanta show to the San Francisco show, “There are different types of customers on the East and West coasts. The East Coast buyers, of course, are getting more of the knit and velvet pieces whereas the West Coast buyers are buying the more trendy items, like suede hats and ponchos,” Wilczynski said.

Daniel Merizen from Toronto, Canada represents Onigo Imports.  “We mostly do home décor, but we’ve started selling women’s accessories – hats, bags and scarves. Comparing the Atlanta show and the SF shows, Atlanta is very, very busy and is rated the #1 show in all of North America.  It’s really a top, top show, estimated at 88,000 buyers, which is even stronger than New York.  The SF show is different. In Atlanta, people go to do their buying. The smaller, more regional shows like the one here in San Francisco are for buyers who’ve worked with companies before or are trying to just wrap up their buying,” Merizen added.  

Abigail Prescott is the marketing rep for Nusantara in Rutland, Vermont.  “We specialize in natural products - silks, wool, and recycled products made from saris. Our styles are hand and machine made in Thailand, India, and Indonesia.  Although confidence in consumer spending is down, people are still buying our products for immediate delivery.”

Abigail Prescott, marketing rep., Nusantara

The information in this article is the opinion of the author and, therefore, should not be construed as libelous.

      ©2004 WingcomLtd. All Rights Reserved.