b'SHOWSTHE LAB- 5 RETAILTHE WRAP-UPWENT GROWNTRENDSSWEET DARK QUESTION SPOTMEET MELEEMelee founders Lauren Wolf and Rebecca Overmann, who are also jewelry designers, met at a trade show.Both have exhibited at many over the years. I tried all of them, says Overmann, rattling off a list that includes JA New York, JCK Las Vegas, Couture and NY Now. Overmann and Wolf built their San Francisco-area-based epony-mous labels (both founded around 2003) before the rise of social me-dia, when it was a givenrather than an evolving subject of debatethat a trade show was the way to gain new wholesale accounts.The only way to connect at that time was to go into a store or exhibit at a trade show, says Wolf. Most recently, Wolf and Overmann had exhibited annually at the Couture show in Las Vegas and biannually in New York City at NY Now, but grew frustrated with the latter. There were plenty of great jewelers at NY Now, but it wasnt edited, it was lacking curation, Wolf says.There were years when they ended up next to any number of home goods vendors, and there was a limit to how long they could tolerateAt the most recent show in February 2020which took place just the possibility of being next to a maker of cat clocks, Overmannbefore the pandemic forced the reshuffling of the entire trade show notes ruefully in reference to one lackluster show.calendar61 designers showed, filling two separate ballrooms at The We wanted to create an environment that was as special as theHigh Line Hotel. jewelry we were showing, she explains.The next edition was scheduled for its usual August, but Melee orga-nizers pushed it back to the fall because of the coronavirus pandemic. IT SORT OF TOOK OFFAs of press time, the next edition of Melee is scheduled for Oct. 19-20.While exhibiting at NY Now, located at the Jacob K. Javits Con-vention Center in far-west Manhattan, Overmann liked to go to TheFILLING THE TRADE SHOW GAP High Line Hotel on 10th Avenue, still very much on the west side butDesigners have taken note of the sustained buzz around Melee. far more adjacent to the action of the city, a stones throw from someJennie Kwon Designs eponymous creator was content with showing of its most illustrious art galleries.at NY Now but Kwon says she started noticing a downturn in the foot I fell in love with The High Line because they have the only goodtraffic after about three years, while simultaneously hearing rumblings coffee in New York, Overmann says matter-of-factly of its Intelli- about a new show that was gaining tractionMelee.gentsia coffee bar.I heard more and more designers talking about how nice it was at Spoken like a true San Franciscan, Wolf chimes in.Melee, she says.When the two designers decided to launch their own trade showThe elegant setting of The High Line Hotel has provided the right in 2017, they did it there, in one of the hotels large ballrooms thatambiance for showcasing jewelry.plays host to many an event.It feels a lot more intimate than other trade shows, Kwon remarks. The impetus was our frustration over not having a proper platformIt has a cozier feel. Your relationship with wholesalers is just thata [to present our work], Wolf explains. Im a designer and a buyer so Irelationshipand I think Melee is conducive to more personal conversa-look at it from both perspectives. tions. People feel more relaxed, I think.Wolf is the proprietor of Esqueleto, the popular jewelry boutiqueIts exactly the energy Kwon and other designers havent felt at selling her and other designers work in four locations around thelarge trade shows. country. Its first location opened in Oakland, California inAs soon as you head to a convention center, buyers are on a 2013 and, as of 2019, its fourth and most recent branch ismission to divide and conquer, says Kwon, but at Melee in downtown Manhattan.The Lighthouse theres a more humane vibe. We see the same buyers re-Wolf added yet another hat to her work-life ward- Diamond Ring with agardless if were at NY Now or Melee, but Melee lends 2.45-carat hybrid pear-shaped robe when she and Overmann launched Melee withwhite diamond in 18-karatitself more to conversation and catching up.an initial group of 24 designers.yellow gold from Lauren WolfMax Lent, who works as the chief operating officer Jewelry. Wolf founded Melee Finding exhibitors they valued and wanted towith fellow jewelry designer for his fathers eponymous brand, Anthony Lent, work with was the easy part. They simply chose theRebecca Overmann.agrees, noting his spectacular aversion to convention group from the network we created organically overcenters, particularly marked by the one year he spent the last 12 to 15 years, Overmann explains.five miserable days at JCK before he found his Since its first showing in 2017, Melee has takenbrands trade show home at Couture. place over three days twice annually during everyStill, he was missing the ideal market environ-New York market week, right ahead of New Yorkment in New York City. Fashion Week and at the same time as NY Now. Joining Melee was a natural move, the organic Continued on page 3836 MARKET ISSUE 2020'