The B2B event set in picturesque settings near California’s Joshua Tree National Park is rewriting the trade show playbook.
Desert & Denim is in the business of building relationships. The annual festival for entrepreneurs and artisans alike, set in picturesque settings near California’s Joshua Tree National Park, brings together the makers and retailers that prioritize craftsmanship and quality above all else.
The unconventional tradeshow provides a platform for brands to share their stories and connect with likeminded retailers. Rather than a slew of marketers and PR representation filling homogenous booths, the show calls for the actual makers and owners of companies to be the storytellers.
Founded in 2015 by Hall Newbegin, owner of the wild-crafted fragrance company Juniper Ridge, and Obi Kaufmann and Mats Andersson, the trade show has grown six times over its original dozen vendors. The June 2018 event featured more than 70 exhibitors spanning denim names like BLKSMTH Denim and Levi’s, to a roster of complementary accessories, wellness and home goods brands.
Kaufmann and Andersson have since parted ways with the event, but Desert & Denim’s focus on community remains unchanged—a priority that’s top of mind for its creative director Tobias Hayduk.
“The idea is to spend time together, eat together, party together,” Hayduk said. “If you leave with a friendship, you can tailor the collections together. You can find more meaningful ways to work with one another and have longer lasting relationships in the long run.”
Since joining Desert & Denim in 2017, Hayduk has worked to maintain traditions, like a campfire dinner for family and friends the night before the event, and a lineup of eclectic musical acts. He’s also introduced new ways to reinforce that sense of community by launching Symposiums, a series of seminars and roundtable discussions on sustainability and good business practice, or what Hayduk calls “conscious capitalism.”
Additionally, the event hosts a schedule of workshops that allows attendees to enjoy hands-on experiences with exhibitors, like hand embroidery and sashiko stitching lessons with Levi’s and indigo dyeing with APPRVL.
It’s these small, niche gatherings that especially appeal to large brands, Hayduk said. “That’s the draw for a larger company—they can pick out that one thing that maybe isn’t in their ad campaign. Here, they can take a minute to share specific stories.”
What is your first denim memory?
“When Levi's opened a store carrying Levi's Vintage Clothing (LVC) in New York City, I had to work there. I basically stalked the staff until they hired me. My first denim memory actually encompasses my first year at the store, when I got to dive deep into the history of the 501, visit the LVC showroom for product training, and meet the design team. I can't place the exact date, but the most transformative experience from that time, the moment that I knew I was doomed—and willingly so—to a life of denim, was the first time I washed my hands and the water ran blue." –Tobias
What is your favorite pair of jeans?
“My favorite pair of jeans is a classic rise, double-black selvedge pair custom made by my friend Ryan Grant-Hayes. It is actually a sample from his forthcoming line. He is an expert in fit and fabric, and is as obsessed as I am about design details.” –Tobias