NEW YORK, New York — On Aug. 13, NY NOW’s Summer Market took place at the heart of New York City’s bustling Javits Center, painting a canvas of transformation, humanitarian outreach, and innovative shopping.
The bi-annual event, which ran for three days, was organized by consulting firm Emerald, and served as a platform for emerging wholesale brands and designers to display their creativity and sell their products. This year’s summer feature showcased hundreds of wholesalers from all around the world.
A revamped system
A major highlight was NY NOW’s acquisition of Bulletin — an online wholesale marketplace, which was first implemented in July of last year. This integration played an instrumental role in the staging, marketing, and planning of the international gift and home show. Elevated lounges, packed networking hours, and engaging panels were but a few features of the revamped edition.
Since then, every exhibitor at NY NOW Online receives their own dedicated virtual storefront on Bulletin. With over 4,000 brands on the online marketplace, the experience allows users to explore and purchase at their leisure through a “seamless hybrid wholesale journey,” on top of visiting the physical stores.
One of the vendors in attendance was designer Jacqueline Agresta from Sparkill, New York. Agresta emphasized her appreciation for unique, handmade items, noting, “There’s a different quality to handmade. The fact that this is an item that you wouldn’t see everyday, especially if you’re from that culture, is meaningful.”
You are now signed up for our newsletter
Check your email to complete sign up
A journey to India became the cornerstone of Agresta’s brand. She recalled, “The vision started 20 years ago when I went to India,” a trip during which she learned about the heart-wrenching fates of many talented designers who had taken their own lives. “That broke my heart,” Agresta told Vision Times. The subsequent realization that traditional arts were being mass-produced abroad compounded her sorrow, “That really, really broke my heart.”
However, adversity paved the way for an inspiring mission. “During [the COVID-19 pandemic], when I lost my job, I knew [the merchants] were also struggling. And my passion was always in designing,” she said. Reflecting on her diverse sizing journey, from size zero to size 12, Agresta was cognizant of a niche in the market. This realization culminated in the conception of her mission, Care: “C for Creating awareness about sustainability. A for assisting artisans, R for reviving age-old art, and E for Empowering Women.”
Agresta’s designs aim to be inclusive, authentic, and sustainable. “I try to create designs that are one-size-fits-most, are reversible, versatile, and unisex,” she said, adding, “Most of the items are hand-blocked printed with natural dyes, so they’re good for your skin. This does not have any microfiber in it. So it doesn’t do any kind of pollution, and is 100 percent biodegradable.”
Another vendor, Lisa Flood of Solmate Socks, is carrying forward a tradition initiated by her mother-in-law, Marianne Wakelin, in 2000. Marianne, an adept hand knitter, enjoyed creating mismatched socks. “She would knit one sock filled with beautiful colors and patterns and after that one sock she didn’t want to do the same thing again,” Flood told Vision Times. This birthed Solmate Socks’ uniquely mismatched, yet coordinated design.
Following Marianne’s retirement, Lisa and her husband have continued to manage the business, all while placing an emphasis on sustainability. “It is all knit with recycled cotton,” Flood noted, a material saved from other cotton product waste.
The key to Solmate Socks is its commitment to American craftsmanship. They began in partnership with a North Carolina knitting mill, Flood recalled. “Just as her business was starting to take off, a lot of his business was being offshored.” Subsequently, they acquired the mill, amplifying their dedication to local production and creating “living wage jobs filled with benefits.”
A B-corp certified entity, Solmate Socks isn’t solely profit-driven; they also support various charitable causes. Now in its 23rd operational year, the company is expanding. “We actually just bought a new building… moving from a 17,000 to a 50,000 square foot facility,” said Flood.
Another vendor, Michelle from 407 Press, creates greeting cards inspired by genuine life events, from infertility to divorce. “All these cards stem from my life and my friends’ experiences,” she told Vision Times.
Addressing often-overlooked topics that can be uncomfortable to talk about, such as menopause or ADHD, her designs have resonated with customers.
Each card is a reflection of “real things that are happening to real people,” she explained. Drawing from personal experiences, Michelle found a niche in addressing topics that often remain hidden behind closed doors. “People don’t normally talk about menopause or divorce or having a kid with ADHD. People aren’t talking about these things, but they should be. And so now there’s a card for that.”
Jenilee Hurley, representing Ethic Goods, along with her three best friends, created a unique jewelry brand where every piece is handcrafted by survivors of human trafficking in Thailand.
Each piece integrates Morse code that tells a story, adding an element of secret words,” Hurley told Vision Times, adding that the vision behind the brand was about “wearing a story,” specifically, the story of the women artisans behind each piece.
The company, while being dedicated to ensuring the quality of their product over the past five years, focuses on providing full-time employment to these survivors. By ensuring prompt payment for labor and materials, the company aims to boost the artisans’ confidence in consistent employment and to help them stay out of the clutches of trafficking. While they provide pictures of the work environment for promotional purposes, they also ensure the identities of the artisans remain protected to maintain their safety.
As brands, exhibitors, and artisans convened under one roof, the event became more than just a shopping platform. With a 34 percent increase in new brands showcasing their offerings, this year’s event was a testament to NY NOW’s evolving nature and its commitment to celebrating design, innovation, and sustainability.