Earls Court Show not Top Draw for British Goods

Matt and Sue – Loving Stoke pottery!

Earlier this week I attended the Top Drawer exhibition at Earls Court II in London. After traipsing  a rabbit warren of seemingly endless hall ways, in the tradesman entrance to Earls Court,  I finally arrived at the event and was immediately taken by the sheer scale of it. Rows upon rows of exhibition stands, which in some areas we so tightly packed  that it reminded me of being in a Morroccan bazaar. Many of the exhibitors I spoke to suggested that the event had doubled in size this year  and as such, was not as successful for them this time around as previous years and I could see why. There were isles upon isles of much of the same stuff… silk scarves, jewelry and greetings cards etc.

Anyway, I was there to see if there was a decent quantity of British manufacturing in attendance. The organisers had rather helpfully tried to include a union flag logo on on the stall signage of those exhibitors  whose goods were made in Britain. Needless to say, I saw very few stalls with this logo on and it’s usage was very hit and miss. There was also plenty of misleading marketing regarding the products true “made in Britian” credentials of certain products.

I did have an interesting conversation with company called Rock & Ruddle that manufactures cute plastic hair brushes, similar to Kent Brushes but theses ones were made in China. They apparently scoured the UK for a manufacturer before eventually outsourcing to the Far East. They said that they were unable to find anyone here that could manufacture their brushes and still be competitive. They set me the challenge of finding someone that could make their stuff here in the UK and I will see what I can do.  I will certainly put a call out on Twitter for them about this and keep you posted.

Dimbleby Ceramics

I was beginning to feel a little depressed after only 3o minutes in. Then came salvation in the form of the Stoke-on-Trent ceramics pavilion. I knew that Dimbleby Ceramics were at the show but I did not realise that they were also there with 10 other pottery designers and makers from the area. I spent a long time with Matt from Dimbleby and Sue from the Ceramic Industry Forum (who bought the pavilion together) generally putting the world to rights. I was buoyed by their passion for British made, and more specifically the Stoke ceramics industry. Indeed they make some beautiful things and I was impressed by the quality of what was on show.

Other businesses of note I spoke to include Filberts Natural Beeswax products, Starchild shoes, Ruby Red cosmetics and Kentish card designer Gabrielle Izen. Beyond that the show was far too big for me to take in and I had to get out. Finding myself completely disorientated  in the mass of stalls I struggled to find the exit. Mild panic set in that it might be some time before I saw daylight again. Needless to say I finally did make it out but was left dazed by the experience.

The show itself seemed a little unfocused thematically and seemed too keen to welcome all comers, regardless of quality. In short not a great exhibition for me as a visitor and I was left wondering how well many of the stall holders could possibly have done.

Did you attend this event and if so what what your experience? Please comment.

– James


  1. I’ve attended International Jewellery London in Earl’s Court and they do have a section where they champion small designers from the British jewellery schools, but they don’t seem to promote British makers as much as they should either.

    The Diary Of A Jewellery Lover

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  2. Unfortunately this is all too common at shows as I have done hundreds over the years, it seems that lessons are never learned by organizers who are simply trying to cram as many in to make as much money as possible without thinking it through from a stall holder and consumer point of view. Electrical points are my biggest bugbear as they charge between 270 and £400 per socket !!!

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  3. You should have come into the ‘Craft’ Hall (opposite the entrance) where I was exhibiting with Design Factory (CF6) There were 100 stands of top quality work from Selected Makers. Apart from the HandmadeJapan stand and one French glass maker everyone else was from GB. It was the first time for the Craft section so the visitors to this hall were the ones to appreciate handmade in Britain so plenty of room in the aisles. For me it was a great show with great results!
    The next great show you should try & attend is the British Craft Trade Fair in Harrogate 6th-8th April. I’ll be there too on stand 196..


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    • sorry I missed it. Had I known you were there I would have come and said hi.

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  4. HI James

    I was visiting on Monday- sorry to have missed you! I share your sentiments. As an ex Buyer we used to walk this show to gain inspiration and pick up new brands. The show has become very samey and due to the costs can no longer attract those small and up and coming brands who are no longer guaranteed orders directly at the fair. I exhibited with my brand a couple of years ago but there was not much to highlight me as a brand who manufactures in the UK. They need to bring the quality back into these fairs as it can be an excellent launch pad for small brands to get known.

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    • The organizers should be allocating an area designated to new exhibitors who should be able to get an introductory rate and smaller stands – also a Made-In-Britain Showcase display of UK-Made products would also attract attention !

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  5. Hi James,
    You should have come and found us in the Top Drawer side of the show, not only do we make all of our hand bags in the UK we actually had a cutter and machinist on the stand making the bags for our customers to see. You can’t get more Made in Britain than that… It was quite a disappointing show with many buyers spending so long “lost” in the new home section that they didn’t have time to get over to us in Top Drawer.. If you are going to Pure at Olympia do come and see us as we will have the demonstrations going on there as well and would love to meet you.
    Many Thanks
    Owen Barry Ltd http://www.owenbarry.com

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