The hotly debated and anticipated not-a-trade-show trade show hosted some fantastic up-and-coming fine jewelry brands, such as Katey Walker.
The hotly debated and anticipated not-a-trade-show trade show hosted some fantastic up-and-coming fine jewelry brands, such as Katey Walker.

Before it even happened, there was a lot of talk about Metal + Smith.

I heard plenty of comments like “Another tradeshow?”, “It’s only one day?” and “What do they mean they’re not a trade show?”

But I heard equal amounts of excitement from the designers participating, and for their sakes, I hoped the show would be a success.

The jewelry community can be insular, which is great for people with longstanding, loyal business relationships, but for a new kid on the block, it can be daunting to break in.

The event was smartly scheduled at the tail end of shows like Capsule, Coterie and Woman New York, on a Monday when buyers would have already made their most pressing appointments and when a lucky few of us would have had a weekend to relax after New York Fashion Week.

20160926 Metal-Smith-Blog-INSERTIn the background, Metal + Smith’s #NotaTradeShow slogan is partially visible.

The show took place at the Mercantile Annex 37, a bright, windowed space with tons of natural light.

Upon arrival I was given a handy reference guide with all of the exhibitors’ bios and e-mail addresses to contact them--a small-yet-super-thoughtful detail that is so helpful when sifting through an ever-growing collection of business cards post-show.

Visitors weren’t given badges, I imagine to emphasize the relaxed, non-show vibe Metal + Smith was aiming for; however, I think the designers would have really liked for buyers and press to be more easily identifiable. Several mentioned as much.
The jewelry community can be insular, which is great for people with longstanding, loyal business relationships, but for a new kid on the block, it can be daunting to break in.
I was impressed with the caliber of designers exhibiting. I made sure to see TAP by Todd Pownell, Margery Hirschey, Roule & Co., Dana Bronfman, Dawes Design, Kataoka, Selin Kent and Ilana Ariel. The designer behind Ilana Ariel, Ilana Sarna, is National Jeweler’s “One to Watch” this month and a designer I’ve admired for some time, though this was her first trade show experience.

Instead of big booths, designers laid out their wares on clean, uniform white tables that were flanked by tall white chairs so exhibitors could actually sit down, but at the same height as their tables so they could converse with visitors. Waiters milled around with water, champagne and hors d’oeuvres.

Ambiance-wise, the only thing Metal + Smith was missing was music, as one designer lamented to me (a thought for next time).

I also appreciated how Metal + Smith embraced their “not-a-trade-show” shtick as a branding mechanism. A large decal on the wall spelled out “#notatradeshow” and for me, being there in person, the point was clear: Metal + Smith wanted its exhibitors to be comfortable and happy, and they looked like they were.

As an editor, what impressed me the most, aesthetics and comfort aside, was that I got to meet lots of new brands that aren’t on the trade show circuit. I was introduced to designers I’ve never heard of, whether their brands are newly launched or press and marketing simply hasn’t been a focus for them.

There were four designers in particular, whom I’m really excited about but hadn’t heard of prior to the show.



Liz Phillips 
Phillips splits her time between Jaipur, where she crafts her jewelry, and the United States; perhaps it’s the Indian influence that lends her such an eye for color and stones. She works with visually rich materials like tiger’s eye and lapis, and has recently ventured into some very impressive enamel work that I would love to see more of.



Tola Jewelry 
Shoma Lahiry of San Francisco-based Tola Jewelry was sporting beautiful stacks of her rings at Metal + Smith. Lahiry’s designs are best seen in person; there is a wonderful heft to her chunky gold pieces. Her style is organic and earthy but bold and occasionally accented with tiny gemstones or diamonds. Her pieces relay value without preciousness; they feel utterly timeless.



Chérut 
Chérut is a brand that likes its bling. Newly launched, the Tel Aviv-based company is helmed by Shani Erez, who cut her teeth at brands like Chloé (an awfully auspicious start to a résumé). Erez uses stunning fancy-cut diamonds in her angular, linear designs, like half moons, trillions and kite cuts. Chérut combines edginess with femininity and glamour with everyday wear.



Katey Walker 
Like her designs, Walker seems somewhat like an ethereal, magical princess. She was sporting an incredible, gemstone-laden headpiece throughout the show and all of her designs echoed the piece’s embrace of unique gemstone combinations. Her table was utterly awash in opals and pearls, and all interestingly set as elaborate ear pieces, chunky necklaces and bold rings. I see a great deal to come from this designer.

With Metal + Smith concluded, I’m curious to hear what designers have taken away from the experience. Were orders placed? Was the exposure adequate? What would they improve about the show?

I imagine Metal + Smith will only get better; their next not-a-trade-show trade show is already scheduled for January 2017 in New York.

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