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The Desert and Denim Tradeshow: Part I

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 series of trade shows across the globe. The circuit usually starts in Berlin then hops to Paris, Milan, New York, LA, and ends in Las Vegas. It’s a two-month death march that pushes many brands to their emotional and financial limit. Without even considering travel, most of these shows run at least $10k per booth per city.

But that landscape is changing. The show that usually kicks off the season, Bread & Butter Berlin, folded last year and is no longer happening. The brands and buyers that once attended BBB had splintered to a variety of smaller European shows, some already existing–SeekThe White ShowMan/Woman–and a new breed of super intimate, highly curated shows that only feature a handful of brands.

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. Think of these shows like buying tv channels ala carte where something like Agenda is a full cable spread–you have to go in for the whole program when you really only care about maybe eight percent of them.

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Enter Juniper Ridge, which runs in the same circles and the same stores as many of the clothing brands you’ll find on our site. JR’s Obi Kaufmann was showing at one of these smaller shows in Northern Europe and thought, why don’t we do that back in the States? A couple years later, we have the first iteration of Desert and Denim, Juniper Ridge’s summer camp-cum-tradeshow in Joshua Tree.

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The show was both spatially and temporally between Inspiration LA and the larger canonical shows in Las Vegas, so several brands and buyers (along with yours truly) decided to keep the jean times rolling and string all three into one same trip. It was the word on everyone’s lips in LA, “Are you going to this thing in the desert?”, “I hear they’re holding it in an old nuke test site!?”, “Do you have any idea what’s happening there besides peyote?”, “Is this going to be Burning Man but with jeans?”

The event website was notoriously cagey–little more than a brand list, dates, and an address–so I had no idea what to expect when I rolled into the Mojave Sands motel that Thursday afternoon. What I found was an intimate collection of brands and buyers, from as nearby as LA or as far away as Stockholm, enjoying a relaxing couple of days of business and each other’s company.

Far away from the big city, the isolation brought everyone together like summer camp–there were no other appointments to make or dinners to attend, everything was self contained within the show. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to going back.

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Here are a few pics from the show in general, we’ll dive deeper into the brands that were showing–IndigoferaTellasonJack/Knife, and more–soon.

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Juniper Ridge was distilling perfumes on site.

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Stanislav Prochazka of Denim Heads Prague

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Neil Berrett and Jonathan Hewitt of Standard and Strange Oakland.

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John Alburl coating a pair of Jack/Knife jeans with Otter Wax.

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Juniper Ridge’s Obi Kaufmann getting a haircut from Fellow Barber.

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Creosote dyeing, you can see the results from the paper-making station hanging to dry in the background.

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One of Juniper Ridge’s trail scouts thought the Mojave Desert the perfect environ for his 32oz. Naked & Famous jeans.

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Morten Kristensen of For Holding up the Trousers and Smith Darby of Too Strong.

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Ancestry Quarterly magazine.

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