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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

Winter NY NOW trade show adjusts to pandemic by going digital with related products

Normally, the 2020 NY NOW home/lifestyle/handmade/gift market trade show would be held, like so many major New York trade shows, at Manhattan’s Javits Center. But because of the coronavirus, the show, which commenced Saturday and runs through Oct. 7, has gone digital, bringing together hundreds of retailers, brands, and product makers together virtually via an intuitive search-and-discovery website engine.

No surprise that so many new product offerings at the NY NOW Digital Market tie in with politics and the pandemic. More than a dozen companies have vote-associated merchandise (apparel, stickers, jewelry, clutches, totes, etc.), while others have Black Lives Matter pins, shirts, and at least one face mask.

Masks, meanwhile, make a big part of new pandemic-related product.

Countless companies are showing masks of all styles and fabrics—pleated, crocheted, reversible, alpaca, leather, gingham, silk, denim, and even Middle Eastern keffiyeh. They display original and classic artwork, and several jewelers have created “3-in-1” chains that can adorn masks as well as eyewear, or be worn as necklaces. AV Design even has a COVID-inspired Mask Compact--a protective COVID mask case designed for fabricated, foldable and crushable masks--that comes with a free KN-95 mask.

Emma Bird's Wing Mask

One of the more unusual masks comes from Emma Bird, a Ghanaian brand that employs fabric and alternative material in creating hand-made fashion jewelry and accessories that empower women with their distinctive sense of style.

“When the COVID situation came up and we started seeing the country shut down, we had to close down for four weeks,” said founder/designer Naa Amanua Williams, in Ghana’s capital city of Accra, by way of NY NOW’s digital meeting place.

“During that time masks became a necessity, and we had to figure out how to keep the company going,” continued Williams, who named Emma Bird after her grandmother—whose passion for fashion and its positive benefits for women inspired her.

“So we started exploring designs for masks: We design jewelry to empower women and bring out confidence, and came up with masks that were stylish, elegant and make a statement.”

Noting a shift of production of international brands from China to Africa, Williams said that Emma Bird’s masks are made from handy-dyed fabrics and mostly by women in small manufacturing units. One of the styles is called the “Wing Mask,” due to its novel shape.

“It’s actually a circular mask,” said Williams, a NY NOW first-timer. “It’s round, then folded over to where it looks like a pair of wings. We made sure to comply with the regulations: three-ply, full protection--and comfort.”

Entering the face mask market, “we saw that there wasn’t much consideration put into development and design,” she continued. “So we put a lot into seeing how they should look on the face, and came up with a great piece.”

And while they’re designed for women, Williams said that there are colors that appeal—and sell--to men.

Other noteworthy pandemic-linked items in NY NOW’s immense listings include hand sanitizers, of course, and from Zootility, the key-shaped antimicrobial Careful Key keychain tool that helps prevent the spread of germs by using it, instead of one’s hands, to do simple tasks in public like touching a a screen or keypad, or opening a door handle.

Nakabayashi's desk partition

And for the office, Nakabayashi, which specializes in stationery product, has devised two versions of the Sneeze Guard for office and school, along with a foldable desk partition.




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