We had a fabulous time visiting Top Drawer Spring which, taking place as it does in mid-January, really helps to kick-start the new year of trading following the hectic Christmas trading and subsequent stock-taking period.
The London Olympia event offers a wealth of new product inspiration across the four major categories of Home, Gift, Fashion and Craft. The Home area in particular has matured greatly over the past few years and we also enjoyed perusing the prominent new Specialty Food section and the fantastic new design talent of Spotlight, for fledgling designers and niche companies.
Within the food we were drawn to Sweet Virtues, which claims to be ‘sending chocolate liberation’, which sounds tempting! This innovative, health-conscious food business has been conceived from a belief in holistic health and well-being, with the mantra ‘Nourish, Nurture, Grow’. Mary Portas has announced that 2016 will be a sugar-free year so who are we to argue. Why not just go with the flow and offer customers specialty foods that are healthy as well as delicious?
Elsewhere at the show we made a beeline for the Greetings & Stationery aisles and quickly felt spoiled for choice. There were stunning displays from well-established publishers including Portfolio and The Art File. We were drawn to the work of designer Sara Miller, who has licensed ranges with both these publishers as well as giftwrap specialist Penny Kennedy.
Very different in style but no less eye-catching were the sumptuous designs of Susi Bellamy, who has been inspired by the iconography and street-corner shrines of Italy to produce a small but luxurious collection of cards, cushions and limited edition prints featuring Renaissance gems.
Susi has used collage to create her own dynamic Madonna image, reconstructed using decorative and emblematic elements of a Florentine aesthetic. Her design series has been created using wrapping paper in traditional Italian designs, marbled paper, beads and gold filigree baking paper, also incorporating her original abstract artwork.
A lot of exceptionally talented illustrators were also in evidence throughout Top Drawer, which has always been a strong showcase for designers. The world of nature is still proving to be a huge inspiration, as with the appealing work of illustrator Ben Rothery, whose birds and bees designs would make a lovely addition to any rural gift shop or garden centre.
With a more contemporary feel is Pick Motion, which has an interesting and original line in photographic greetings, which couple trendy photo-realism with classic styling for strong images with a quirky edge.
On the gifting side we were very taken by the beautifully stylish and pared-back showcase of What Kate Loves. Yorkshire-based surface pattern designer Kate Thorburn, is a couple of years into the ceramics business and proudly manufactures all her hand-painted products in Stoke-on-Trent, from one of the only potteries that manufactures creamware ceramics.
If What Kate Loves is delictely traditional, the offering of Qualy Denmark is super-contemporary with an important emphasis on environmentally friendly credentials. From award-winning self-watering plant pots to ingenious recycling solutions, Qualy is well-worth checking out for their unique decorative homewares that are stylish as they are practical.
If practicality is far from your mind and fantastical, fairy-tale living is more your style, Michaela McMillan’s would surely have been your stand of choice at Top Drawer. The designer takes ephemera to another level with her unique and individual handmade sculptures depicting stories about characters inside glass domes. If I had to sum up her pieces I’d describe them as being like Alice in Wonderland running riot in the gardens of Kubla Khan, all inside a terrarium – what’s not to love!
Coming down to earth again, the wonderful retro collection of Sting in the Tail was not only a boon for garden centre gift shop buyers, but included so many male gifting ideas it should have been mandatory viewing for all those who claim there’s not much around for men in amongst the many thousands of new products launched each season.
Images from top to bottom: What Kate Loves, Hannah Rampley, Sweet Virtues, Sara Miller for Portfolio, Susi Bellamy, Ben Rothery, Pick Motion, What Kate Loves, Qualy Denmark, Michaela McMillan, Sting in the Tail, My Design Co.