Welcome to a behind-the-scenes video of AphroChic's first trade show experience at Maison et Objet in Paris, France! Early this month my team and I, which included my husband, Bryan Mason, and my sister Angela Belt, set out on an international journey that took us 3,000 miles overseas to present our collection to an international design market. To say the experience was exhilarating is an understatement.
We entered Hall 6, with hundreds of other vendors from around the globe. Our section, Objet de Mode, was all about the latest in modern design. From setup to finish, this five-day international trade show kept us on our toes. Just a few hours before the show opened, the halls were packed with people. Setup teams were scrambling to get the booths -- some of them measuring hundreds of square feet -- ready for viewing.
Other workers were setting up the larger spaces, laying carpet and stocking the pop-up restaurants that would turn this oversized warehouse into a world class showroom housing everything from small textile vendors to the biggest names in home decor worldwide. There was even one booth so large that it included a fully stocked bar -- complete with stools and a giant TV screen.
Setup took place over four days. But we were delayed by problems with the airlines (they lost our bags!) that brought our number of days down to one. It was quite a day. Fifteen hours of work, from seven in the morning to ten at night. We placed furniture, hung shower curtains, framed wallpaper samples and ironed everything we could put our hands on. But we didn't have everything, which meant making a couple of trips to IKEA.
Exploring IKEA in France is pretty easy. They're just like the IKEA at home, but a little more confusing if you're like me and only speak a little French. A word of advice though, if you're heading for an international trade show, work on your conversion tables. Turning inches into meters will have you wishing you'd paid more attention in school. Thankfully, we live in an age of smart phones. There's an app for everything.
When we arrived at the show on the first day, it was amazing. Everything was perfectly in place, just as if it had always been there, with no sign of the chaos that was just a few hours past. My husband and I set up our booth and waited to see what the day would bring. We were terrified that our little company, only two years old and with no publicity outside of the U.S., wouldn't attract any attention from the buyers who were rushing past. Fortunately, we didn't have long to wait.
In just a few minutes we had people glancing in as they walked by. A few minutes later, a few were stopping in to take a look. As the days went on we met retailers and interior designers from all over the world -- Paris, London, Norway, Australia, China, Sweden and more. The diversity of the show was truly amazing, and our brand was embraced by boutique owners who were working to bring a sense of global culture to their own shops. We were also visited by a number of press people, some from as far away as Shanghai. Our hearts stopped when we were visited by Elle Decoration France for a feature in their November issue, which will cover the show and cultural pieces presented.
After five days of showing, we had contacts from more than one hundred shop owners, online retailers, service providers and press. But the best part of the show was the large number of friendly and inviting people that we met, all with booths of their own. They made us feel welcome and helped us to pass the long days with laughter and good conversation. We were even invited to the evening opening of a Sentou in Paris. It was a beautiful space and a wonderful way to unwind after a hard day.
If you ever have an opportunity to travel to Paris, either in September or January, you must visit the show. You will see eight amazing halls filled with a staggering array of offerings from all over the world. Small vendors will sit side by side with huge names, showing whole rooms full of products. To everyone at Maison et Objet, and all of our new friends, thank you for an unbelievable experience, and we cannot wait to see you all again soon!