As part of making Emma Inks 2.0 a more creative blog I thought it might be useful to share some of the creative events I go to as well as my process and business behind the scenes. So here’s my round up of what to expect from Top Drawer London, as well as some of my favourite creators from this year’s show.
What is Top Drawer?
In a nutshell, Top Drawer London is one of the UK’s biggest lifestyle trade shows. Featuring design led products ranging across homeware, fashion, gifts, and greetings cards.
Where and When?
Top Drawer takes place in January and September and is held in London Olympia. Tickets are free but this isn’t a day out shopping – it’s a trade show for creatives and retailers.
What can I expect to see from Top Drawer?
My first Top Drawer was last year and, honestly, I was overwhelmed. The show is massive and I was unprepared. Thankfully take two worked out much better!
My top tip is that before you reserve a ticket ask yourself why you are going.
For me I wanted to meet other creative businesses and plan for when I am ready to exhibit my own brand.
Instead of charging straight in this year I took my time, grabbed a programme, planned my route, and made a list of businesses I wanted to check out.
Last year anxiety got the best of me and I didn’t speak to anyone. The reason people show their work at a trade show is to make sales to retailers and I didn’t want to waste their time.
This year I went in with much more confidence and met some awesome creators who were more than happy to chat. It was such an amazing, real life, example of how collaboration over competition creates such a positive environment.
In saying that, I would never go and take advantage of other makers. Time and knowledge has great value and I am a huge believer in exchanging skills in any way possible. So, in a small way of repaying people for their time and advice here are some of the ace indie businesses that inspired me.
Awesome Indie Brands
This is just a small sample of the insanely talented makers I met at Top Drawer:
Jo is a Surface Pattern Designer and creates unique gifts, homeware and textiles all featuring her hand drawn designs. From beautiful beeswax wraps to notebooks, Jo has a range of colourful products to fit anywhere in your life.
A bight brand concentrating on spreading good vibes through bold design and typography. I need that creative planner in my life.
A Scottish based business creating modern design led paper goods and stationary. Prefer to shop in person? Well, you’re in luck if you’re in Edinburgh because they also have a store in Morningside.
Creating luxury paper goods and greetings cards from her awesome paintings. I’ve been a fan of Jade’s work for a while now, initially drawn in by her leather clad characters.
Founded by Ellie Hodesdon, East End Press is a print studio based in Glasgow. Inspired by the traditional crafts and folk art, East End Press creates “beautiful, colourful things for your home”.
Creating a range of products concentrating on modern calligraphy printed using her 1940’s Autovic letterpress. I love the mix of traditional method with modern design in Imogen’s greetings cards and stationary.
OK, so Ruth technically didn’t exhibit at this year’s Top Drawer BUT she will be there with here colourful cards and positive paper goods in January.
Is it worth the price tag?
This is something I have been weighing up for over a year now. I’m gonna be real, Top Drawer ain’t cheap, but taking the time to talk to exhibitors and doing a bit of my own research makes the cost seems worth it in the long run.
A couple of warnings I had from creators was that sales might not happen on the day BUT usually leads to business later on down the line. Also even if the worst happens and you get no sales it’s a great learning experience being able to get direct feedback from stores so you know what retailers are looking for.
Will I be at the next top drawer?
If money was no object I’d be there in a heartbeat. As with everything in business it all comes down to sales. If business booms the rest of the year I’m 100% committed to reinvesting that money into doing a trade show.
So, watch this space – if things go well then my next Top Drawer blog post will hopefully be about my first time exhibiting at a trade show.