Thousands of curious hopefuls flooded Los Angeles’ California Market Center to meet and shop directly from independent designers and artists at day one of UNIQUE LA’s 5th Annual Spring Show this past Mother’s Day weekend.
The two-day ten-dollar-entry shopping event held in the Penthouse floor of the California Market Center welcomed an average of 15-17,000 guests over the weekend, averaging about 7,000 per day.
“I just like how people make [stuff] and make it into a business,” Katrina Reyes, shopper and attendee of the event for two years, says. “It’s everyone’s individuality set out there. You can just tell how everyone is based off of their stuff.”
As the largest independent design show in the country, UNIQUE LA has a reputation for bringing local-made design and art to the masses while also supporting the US economy and small businesses.
“On average shoppers spend over $1.5 million at each UNIQUE shopping event,” State of Unique writes. “Because the curated events feature only made-in-America products, the money spent is injected right back into the community.”
As a curated show, each of the designers and artists are hand-selected by a committee devoted towards providing a diverse collection of designers and vendors for the show.
Aisha Shaya, Senior Event Producer of UNIQUE LA, states that “out of the 600-700 people who apply, only 350 vendors are accepted for capacity.” She also adds that jewelry vendors are their largest category.
Beginning at 11am in the morning to 6pm at night, UNIQUE LA vendors are excited to spend their days at the event as one vendor, JD Cowles of All Spice Café, enthuses, “You’ve got all these awesome vendors [and] it’s an awesome show.” As crowds of people fight for his samples of his renowned sauces, he cries, “I couldn’t sell [my stuff] fast enough!”
As shoppers survey the booths ranging from handmade clothing, vintage jewelry, posters and prints to freshly made macarons, others flood the free food and drinks being served by LUNA Bar, JOIA All Natural Sodas and Honest Tea, among others.
Located in the middle of the Penthouse, Meg Frampton of Chandler the Robot shares her booth with two friends, Nick Price from Bolt Lighting and Kate Nelson from Golden Locket Designs.
A newbie at the event, Frampton showcases her handcrafted robot-jewelry which she first picked up at home as a hobby just three-years ago. She confesses, “This is the first craft show that I’ve done. … There’s so much amazing creative talent here, and I’ve got so much to learn!”
Her display is an assembly of a wooden table besides a vintage cabinet holding up a display of metal pipes adorned with robot jewelry and necklaces. These are illuminated by the handmade light fixtures by Bolt Lighting and charming old-timey cards from Golden Locket Designs.
Being there since 9pm the night before, Price adds they were “trying to figure out how to make that green wallpaper stay,” pointing to their lofty cubicle. He expresses how proud he is of how the booth turned out as Frampton exclaims, “My sister keeps coming back every hour saying, ‘This looks so cool! How did you get it to be like this?!’”
Vendors were more than happy to talk about their products, as Cowles from All Spice Café mentioned how he “never knew my family product would lead me to winning a hot-sauce competition and my own business.” He adds that he first joined UNIQUE in December 2011 and he’s “done every show since then.”
As UNIQUE thrives on both creating and giving back to the community, they dedicate each show to bringing awareness to various non-profits they find important. For this Spring Show, they donated 10% of all ticket sales to the Downtown Women’s Center (DWC), a center for providing help to homeless and abused women.
“[Our numbers are] increasing every show,” Shaya says of UNIQUE. “Our first show was in 2008 in LA as a Spring Show, then we had the Holiday Show, and now we have ones in SF and New York.”
As the day winds close to its closure, more guests fill the room as the room becomes stuffy and the temperature significantly rises. The photo booth snaps their last couple of shots of attendees posed with unicorn masks and bunny ears, while Do-It-Yourself craft tables become overloaded with scattered papers and designs. Food vendors give out their last samples of chocolates, cakes and tea, while clothing-vendors finish up transactions and conversations with customers, or close their booth up for the next day to come.
As a line of people piled up in front of the elevator about 50-feet in length, the length of 5 cars, to leave the Penthouse, conversations lingered as attendees pawned over their purchases, with vendors and shoppers alike exchanging ideas or sharing a toast for the day they had just shared together. There had gleamed hope for the day to happen all over again.