Desert and Denim, now in its third year, has become somewhat of an annual highlight for me. The event was founded as the antithesis to the large impersonal trade shows that have become a necessary evil in the consumer brand sales cycle. The show offers smaller brands and “maker brands” a chance to showcase their lines in front of a curated community of buyers and media.
Founder Hall Newbegin refers to the show as a “renegade trade show”—and Hall knows a little bit about being a renegade. Whilst his brand, Juniper Ridge, can be found in Barneys, Hall can be found on the trail, wild harvesting nature’s best for Juniper Ridge’s line of soaps, oils and colognes. At Desert and Denim you may spot him wandering around with his ukulele or spinning some records from his impressive personal collection.
This sort of spirit—a little renegade, a lot eclectic—is what makes an event like this so special, and why the brands, the buyers and other attendees, such as myself, return every year: not for an impersonal transaction but for a genuine community experience.
The event kicked off as you would expect any event billed as “raucous” would: under the stars, with a campfire, live music and a truck dishing out wine in cans (for the record, a delicious way to consume half a bottle of wine without even realizing it). It was a wonderful, if a little boozy way to kick off some magic in the desert.
The next morning, Pioneer Town Motel came alive with brands showcasing their work and sharing their stories with the passing buyers and press. Many brands partnered with Mar Vista Art Dept to host workshops, taking the showcasing of their craft to a whole new level by sharing their process with eager attendees. All the while Hall’s record collection echoed through the Shelter Co designed outdoor event space (think huge safari tents and lots of pillows).
As day one wrapped, the group headed down to Taylor Junction to fete a photography showcase from Amy Leverton of Denim Dudes and to enjoy some more live music (and, of course, some more of that canned wine and a little whiskey).
Day two was a new move for Desert and Denim as they opened the proverbial doors to the public for the first time. Attendees were offered a unique opportunity to purchase goods straight from the makers themselves. I personally walked away with some earrings from Dear Survivor, part of a handcrafted collection made in the San Diego garage of owner Christine Longoria. Longoria donates 10% of all profits to survivors of human trafficking. I also purchased a raw silk bandanna, hand-dyed with osage wood and rust from Made in LA brand Last Chance Textiles. As someone who does the majority of her shopping online, meeting the folks behind the brands is always a special experience.
Also new to Desert and Denim this year was the Symposiums. Symposium comes from the Greek words meaning “fellow drinker” or “to drink together.” It was a place for community leaders and luminaries to come together and discuss, debate, boast and share their passions. I was invited to kick things off with a vendors-only chat over breakfast. I shared my philosophies on being a brand in 2017 and offered advice and recommendations as to what it means to be a brand and a content creator and how to build your community with that content (you can read my talk here). Later that day, Levi’s, Patagonia and Looptworks converged for a lively discussion regarding fast fashion versus the maker movement—a highlight of the day.
As the weekend wrapped we headed to the world famous Pappy and Harriets to celebrate another successful Desert and Denim with music, drinks, food and each other.