Now, I’m not so into trade shows. Usually they’re held in large, fluorescent conference centers, vast warehouses filled with booth of unsustainable items. Every time I go, I spend 80% of my time asking the vendors if they are sustainable or ethical in anyway, and getting either a blank stare, or a chipper, vague, greenwash of a statement. I don’t have time for two days of that! But it was clear from the beginning that Desert and Denim was different. 

 
 

We came to the desert to howl. To be modern anthropologists, cut out the trend forecasters. Make the best goods possible inspired by nature & experience. Give life to those things and surround yourself with equally unapologetic makers & creators. We came to the desert to uphold the emerging creative spirit that happens in the in-between moments, the negative space, the room to roam. As Camus said: “with rebellion, awareness is born.”

 

Here at Make Smith, we appreciate dirty boots. Do you know why? It's because they tell a story of an adventure... We're still brushing the desert sand off our boots after an incredible weekend working Make Smith's booth at the Desert & Denim trade show in Joshua Tree, CA. Put on by Juniper Ridge and hosted by Mohave Sands Motel, the weekend was filled with nerding out about leather, meeting other like-minded artisans, attending demonstrations, and drinking some good drinks. 

 
 

Tradeshow season is incredibly incarcerating and impersonal -- confined to a booth with nothing but numbers and the bottom line to talk about, it is a killer for the creative mind. So how do you stand out in a world that is founded on following trends and highly focused on spending too much money to make money? The simple answer is, you can’t… unless you go against the grain. Wilderness fragrance company, Juniper Ridge, recognized this obstacle and did just that.

 
 

Not satisfied with making our cabins smell great, Juniper Ridge has brought together like-minded people who make artisan denims and other lifestyle goods in a small festival located at the start of the High Desert about 130 miles east of Los Angeles. A lot of hip folks attended this February and luckily Robert Spangle was there to capture the action. We heard about Juniper Ridge from Indigofera in Stockholm and now you've got the message ...

 
 

With brand slogans like "Be Honest, Stay True" (Hot Cakes) and "Find Some Place to Get Lost (Iron & Resin), Desert & Denim is the anti-trade show. Here, you're more likely to juggle a herb-infused organic cocktail (Art in the Age) while hand-dyeing a hemp tee-shirt (Jungmaven), when waiting for a constellation tattoo (Premium Tattoo Oakland), than discuss how to make outdoor gear appeal to both your fly-fishing dad and your vagabond little brother.

 
 

Last week, some two dozen brands gathered at a the Mojave Sands Motel in the small desert town of Joshua Tree for a new trade show called Desert and Denim. Understanding the context of Desert and Denim requires a good bit of inside baseball about the trade show landscape, if you’d just like to see jean pics feel free to skip ahead. Still here? Okay. For as long as I’ve been involved in the show side of this business (a paltry two years), the buyers and the brands have all communed biannually at a designated ...

 
 

An invite-only event, Desert and Denim goes against the grain of the traditional trade show format, focusing rather on a super intimate, highly curated show with only a handful of brands that are changing the course of retail. As Rawr put it (check out their coverage of the shows here) “the idea behind these new shows isn’t to capture a scattershot assortment of buyers, but only the few that will actually come to see these specific brands instead of the giant throbbing maw of Capsule or Liberty Fairs.” The fair ...

 
 

Desert and Denim on Feb 12 & 13 in Joshua Tree at the Mojave Sands Hotel was an amazing success. It's part renegade tradeshow / part makers' carnival / part desert hootennany ha! bourbon and desert sky-full-of-stars campfires, natural dye classes with wildcrafted desert plants, leather-working demos and meet the makers / owners from the best rugged fashion brands ...