Hello! My name is Michael Christie and I am The Ruggist.
Welcome to Monologue. Short, concise, micro-pod-casts in which I share my opinions and thoughts about myriad topics as they relate to and intersect with the trade of handknotted and handmade rugs and carpets.
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Monologue – Episode 5 – Trade Shows
I love a trade show, trade fair in International English. When done well, with a fortuitous confluence of circumstance and a sufficient quorum of buyers and sellers and traders and makers, the excitement of a trade show renews a weary soul. Inspirational, aspirational, luxurious, or (k)not the assortment of wares offered can and often does reveal the uniqueness of regional aesthetic vernaculars and offers the opportunity for people of disparate perspectives to exchange not only rugs and carpets, but ideas and thoughts about all the things people choose to talk about.
I vividly recall my first North American rug trade show at AmericasMart in Atlanta in 2002 – ‘Atlanta’ in argot. Jointly organized by AmericasMart and what was then the influential Oriental Rug Importers Association (ORIA), at the turn of the century Atlanta was… for the lack of a better phrase… ’It!’ It was the place to be and to be and be seen. It truly embodied all the indulgences – carnal, exploitively capitalistic, and otherwise – conveyed and implied by the portmanteau ‘Hotlanta!’
Then, as things must, they changed.
DOMOTEX. The New York International Carpet Show (NYICS). Metro Market Week. The Rug Show. Istanbul Carpet Week. Carpet Week Hamburg. COVER Connect. Marrakech Carpet Week. To name but a few. All of these shows sprang forth in response to demands from exhibitors – which is to say rug importers, traders, makers, and carpet houses – to offer something more in keeping with the type of clientele they wish to attract – whatever that means; I’m not certain the aforementioned actually know either. Moreover, some eventually decided to forgo rug trade shows altogether, electing to either exhibit at select design fairs, or in the extreme, host private family style affairs on their own accord.
Some of these shows have foundered, others have persevered. This is the churn of capitalism.
Throughout all of these shows, weeks, and private affairs however, one element underwrites their success and endurance: the ability to attract enough clientele – the stated ‘sufficient quorum’ – to both turn a profit and give the impression to attendees that the event was worth their time. For as extravagant and specific as one can craft a show intended to attract certain vaguely defined classes of buyers, it remains that buyers – like each of us – only have so much time. As I learnt years ago in retail, it is wise to make things easy for buyers.
This is the problem of factionalized trade fairs. An endless calendar of shows and events distracts from the reselling of the wares being purchased at said shows and forces buyers to choose not necessarily the best product, but the show that best suites their needs. Arguing via reductio ad absurdum, it seems that one must either travel to an infinite number of trade shows with so-called boutique selection or to a singular show with infinite selection in order to satiate the needs of a rug and carpet buyer. Obviously this is an exaggeration of reality, but it illuminates my point: there must be a balance and it must make the job of the buyer easy. This was the ethos and strategy of the rug and carpet showroom I managed and for which I was a buyer back in the day and it remains a principle I think everyone should adopt. Time is, after all, our most precious human resource.
Fortunately, unlike in years past, this year saw COVER Connect and The Rug Show coincide on the same dates in and around New York City, which meant the only decision to have been made was: ‘Do I really want to go to New Jersey?’ No, no I don’t. All joking aside, it was nice the dates aligned and it would be nice to see this continue in the future. Likewise I must praise both shows for having respectable groupings of exhibitors, and while the shows certainly project what one might call ‘aesthetic differences’ in terms of selection, the selection in aggregate seems more than adequate for any showroom buyer. This is a win for buyers and sellers alike for we must remember that in this era of handknotted and handmade rug and carpet sales, the competition is not the exhibitor across the aisle. It is all the other cheap schlock being peddled via any means profitable. And there are many.
If I were to have but one critique – mwahahahaha, whom am I kidding, I have ample – but if I were to have but one, it would be this. Can you really expect an honest review of any of the shows when they are incestuously intertwined with the trade media? COVER (Magazine) will of course tell you their show, COVER Connect , was amazing, rugnews.com will continue falsely claiming they are the only source for rug news from their circa dawn-of-the-internet website, and who cares what Rug Insider will tell you about The Rug Show; I can assure you – with firsthand knowledge – it is not said without at least the tacit endorsement of said show. But access journalism and institutional capture via advertising dollars are topics for another day.
This has been Monologue Monday.