b'SHOWSTHE LAB- 5 RETAILTHE WRAP-UPWENT GROWNTRENDSSWEET DARK QUESTION SPOTimportance of the relationships the brand has fostered there. The reason? Its been building a much-needed New York City Diamond District showroom to host private clients. As the company invests in that project, it has to cut back in other areas, namely Vegas, though it has tentative hopes to return to Cou-ture in 2021. Melee, on the other hand, is affordable enough that Anthony Lent doesnt have to cut it from the budget in order to make room for the showroom project. Max Lent opines: A lot of the stores were targeting for wholesale are coming to Melee. And even twice a year, its still much less expen-sive than doing Couture.Wolf and Overmann were still exhibiting at Couture when they launched Melee but have since pulled out.Its an absurd price to the vendor for the return, says Wolf. For so long, it was about prestige for [many independent designer jewelry result of a multifaceted relationshipAnthony Lent is stocked atbrands], but I [now] find its just impossible to make sense of that cost.Esqueleto and Wolf studied under the jeweler at FIT. The brand has been committed to Melee since its second iteration.WHATS NEXTWe didnt consider doing any other trade shows [outside Cou- Amali, Brooke Gregson, Sia Taylor and Wwake are some of the ture] until Melee came around, Lent says.brands buyers can find at Melee. Melee is designed by designers, for designers. Lauren and Re- Kwon, of Jennie Kwon Designs, says theres a synergy to the becca have looked at what does and doesnt work at trade shows,well-respected group thats developed there. Theyre all indepen-and sort of pulled that apart and represented it in a way thats reallydent designer jewelry brands and sell at comparable price points. comfortable for designers. Theres a sense of camaraderie at Melee, she says.Like Kwon, Lent notes the size of Melee is just right.Wolf and Overmann intend to keep it that way.Its not too large. Its not overwhelming. A buyer in a full dayTheres a fine balance you walk [between success and] becoming a could make the rounds and really see everything.mass product, says Wolf. Whats special is the size and the location Another Melee selling point for designers is the lack of setup.and the intimacy.Designers use simple glass showcases to display their work. That intimacy makes Melee even better equipped to adapt to any Its beautiful and its polished and its very presentable but itpandemic-related challenges it comes across, according to Wolf and doesnt require the designers to come and be construction workersOvermann. for three days, says Kwon. Everything is uniform. We foresee that the size of our show will be beneficial for both It also creates a sense of equality among designers. designers and buyers in the time of COVID-19, says Wolf. We have It feels more democratic, Lent says. The venue itself is such athe flexibility within our space to follow health guidelines and limit beautiful venue. Who would want to go to the Javits Center when youthe amount of people attending our show.can go to The High Line Hotel? You step outside and youre in NewOvermann adds, Our designer roster will continue to be small and we York City, youre not in a taxicab parking lot.plan on implementing a staggered buying appointment system for our registered buyers in October. Our primary goal and concern is the safety THE BOTTOM LINE of all members of our community and we look forward to celebrating in If one half of the ideal trade show equation is intimacy and gooda new way this fall.design, the other, even more important, half is pricing.They also say theyre open to changing dates in the future, though We wanted to keep it very affordable, in line with NY Now, says Wolf. the February/August schedule has worked well thus far because there Wolf and Overmann say exhibiting prices have gone up since theirusually are many buyers in town at that time.first show, but not by too much.Ultimately, organizers behind Melee want to remain nimble, rele-Lent says his first Melee show experience produced a phenomenalvant and enjoyable, to designers and buyers alike.return on investment. The landscape is not what it used to be, says Wolf. The way And Melees only gotten better as its gained its footing in thepeople buy and see new work is different. You can email someone marketplace. your line sheets now. I feel the level of buyer has increasednot the quantity of buy- Its important to be aware of how things have changed.ers, but the quality, Lent says. Lent wants Melee to continue to find success, while retaining the For independently funded jewelry companies, Melee has becomeingredients that make it work now.a viable investment they can keep coming back to, year after year We hope that it grows, he says, but I think its at a really great even as they drop other more expensive trade shows.spot right now. More and better stores and buyers will be coming to Anthony Lent, for example, was planning to take a break fromthat show. I think its an excellent complement to Couture, and Id be Couture this year even before the show was canceled, despite thevery happy if I could do Melee and Couture every year. 38 MARKET ISSUE 2020'