Marla Bosworth is the founder and owner of Back Porch Soap Company. She teaches classes, corporate events and experiences including candle making, soap making, organic skincare and perfumery.

January 29, 2012

Inspiration & Optimism: Beauty Products Rock New York International Gift Show

I had such an inspiring full-day of walking and shopping this year’s January New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF) at the Javits Center in New York City. It was one of the busiest Sundays in the winter market that I have seen since the economy tanked in 2007. Not only was the traffic heavy, but order writing was brisk from observations and speaking with other entrepreneurs. This is great news. Confidence in spending shows up with retailers first, then retail sales should be brisk in stores this year. There were also very interesting new products (in personal care and throughout the show) as well as some new trends that I observed.

The first of two ExTracts aisles.
NYIGF typically features around 2,800 exhibiting companies and 35,000 attendees. Show representatives say that lines from more than 85 countries are represented. One section of the gift show, ExTracts, represents the personal care and beauty market. The lines that I am reviewing were found throughout NYIGF, including ExTracts.

Emerging Trends

  • The marriage between food and personal care continues (feeding your skin). Packaging trends for beauty leaning towards kitchen/food (honey, milk in glass containers), which makes sense as the shift to cosmetics/foods takes place. Also showing up in interesting fragrance descriptions. Example “Bordeaux, Fig, & Vetiver”.
  • Continued growth/interest in eco-friendly, sustainability and fair trade. Check out these recycled green wine bottles from Paddywax
  • The sustainability and fair trade section of the NYIGF had a great “vibe” and traffic/order writing appeared to be brisk.
  • Inspirational labeling (see featured company are you? below)
  • Bohemian theme was very popular in general gift sector
  • Decorative/Interior Design labeling in personal care gift sector (damask, tapestry and colorful graphic designs)
  • Decorative Lines (
  • Home fragrance explosion (More home fragrance lines than I’ve ever seen: approximately 125 total lines)
  • Bright colors: fuchsia, orange, bright pinks, purple, offset by black
  • Natural colors: green and amber bottles and jars/packaging
  • Increase in minimalistic labeling
  • World travel themes (maps and images of Paris, Rome, New York) and and
  • Floral fragrances return big-time for Spring 2012
  • Bees, honey and beeswax in personal care products
  • Personalization/Monograms/Letters in Soaps
  • Wax seals with stamps. and
  • Black packaging (example:
  • Small to large size companies partnering for long-term empowerment (charities and more)

Handcrafted Beauty Lines and New Product Introductions

Spotted this sign at NYIGF. It's the perfect reflection of the passion some of these small, handmade beauty company owners that I met today have for their businesses.

One of my favorite independent, handmade bath and body companies at the show was Lotus Love Beauty, a line based on “Accentuating Your Inner Beauty.”  Owner Jessica Gulati and her mom, two of the most passionate about their business and one of the friendliest business owners that I met at the show, are based in San Diego, California. Every dollar spent on their colorful bath and body line supports The Shanti Project, an initiative to bring positive change to the world.

Another interesting handcrafted line with an eco-friendly feel is Good Fortune ( . Company owner Jennifer Jack is a graphic designer  turned soapmaker. Based in Tennessee, she recently traveled to Haiti to teach soapmaking there. Her soaps are packaged with a fortune card (similar to a playing card). The company also has clever gift sets and also offers private labeling.

Julee Ireland ( is a handmade, whimsical line based in Westlake Village, California. After being laid off from one of the largest home builders in the U.S., Julee launched a greeting card soap in her kitchen in 2009. An artist and designer, she created an array of greeting card soaps, soy candles, fragrances and bath and body products. Her patented greeting card soaps impressed me, and also apparently impressed some big-name retailers as well.

A completely different line, Cote Bastide (, is the perfect reflection of a trend toward minimalism in personal care products packaging and design. Cote Bastide offers room sprays, shower gels, candles, sea salts packaged in a muslin bag and more. This European-inspired line was featured in the France Pavilion at NYIGF, one of several international pavilions.

Jessica Leale, president and founder of are you? ( gave birth to a dream that she had for a business in 2008. Three years later, she launched her company with her first wholesale order. She debuted her company at NYIGF this month. Are you? is a line of inspirational and motivational products, including soy candles. For example, vanilla cinnamon pairs with “are you making a difference”; lemon basil pairs with “are you making memories?”; and vineyard fragrance pairs with “are you following your dreams?” Each of her candles has a soybean on top of the way to remind customers that it is made with pure soy wax. All scents are hand stamped on the letterpress label and each candle has a cotton paper hangtag attached by a 100% natural hemp cord. She offers hand stamped natural muslin gift bags. 

Greenleaf ( unveiled two new fragrances at NYIGF, Island Sunset and Radiant Waters in its home fragrance collection. Greenleaf is owned by husband and wife team, Bob and Sylvia Caldwell. The company also introduced a new Sydney Aroma Décor Set, a clear glass aroma décor diffuser with a decorative top, diffuser oil, and stone and wick assembly. 

Candle company Votivo ( introduced its newest fragrances Pink Mimosa and Breath of Lavender in its soy candles, reed diffusers, fragrance mist and travel tins. The company says Pink Mimosa is a complex blend of sweet strawberry and mandarin combined with white gardenia, wild honeysuckle and mimosa with base notes of vanilla rum, sandalwood and musk. Its Breath of Lavender combines lavender with amber, tonka and musk.

Another interesting small business is New Jersey-based B. Witching Bath Co ( Last summer, the company’s Organic Shaving Jelly was the winner in the NYIGF Natural/Organic Category. This particular product is made with 95% organic content, infused with organic aloe, cucumber, cranberry extracts, and kosher vegetable glycerin. Although I didn't find a new product announcement for this company, they are worth mentioning as they are picking up steam and loads of press.

Brooklyn was well represented at the NYIGF. Two independent soap companies, Soapwalla and Metropolis Soap, both exhibited at Extracts. Soapwalla, whose tagline is “Feed Your Skin”, was founded in 2009 by Rachel Winard. Her line includes a top-selling deodorant cream, body oils, face serum, bath soaking salts, body washes, lip balms and soap. Winard’s company won Summer 2011 NYIGF’s “Best New Products Award.” Check out her line at

I stopped and chatted with Megan Finkelstein, founder of Metropolis Soap Company ( She launched her company in 2009 and introduced her new exfoliating body scrubs at the show. She raises the bar (no pun intended) on ingredients, as she uses 100% vegan, no synthetics or sulfates, and only sources from fair-trade companies. Her skin care line ranges from soaps, herbal spa soaks, lip creams and whipped shea. 

Another company, Anjolie Ayurveda ( introduced a line of aromatherapy body butters. The product is wrapped in jewel toned, handmade paper. The butters are available in Sandalwood Saffron, Neroli Lemon, Lavender, and Neem Tulsi. The company is owned by mother/daughter team of Cary and Meryl Gabeler from Hastings-on-Hudson, NY.

Powerhouse company K. Hall Designs launched a new line called Barr Co. (, a one-scent, new line that utilizes reusable glass, tinware and bags. There are 11 products in the line: Muslin Bag of Sea Salts, Eau de Parfum, Three-Piece Soap Gift Set, Hand Salve, Oatmeal Saddle Soap, Candle Travel Tin, Candle in Glass, Hand Soap, Lotion, Bubble Elixir, and Bath Salt Soak.

Worker B is a company reflective of the popularity of beeswax and honey in personal care products. Last year this company won Best of Show in Extracts for its Worker B Rescue Putty, a balm made with olive oil, beeswax and raw honey sourced from local beekeepers ( They support the work of local beekeepers, and uses bee products (raw honey, beeswax and propolis) from chemical and anti-biotic free hives. All other ingredients are certified organic and their packaging materials are recyclable.

Marula Oil

One area of opportunity I often suggest is building a brand around a single ingredient. First there was shea butter. Then argan oil. Now there is Marula Oil, a company by The Leakey Collection ( Designed by Dr. Ashton Kaidi and Katy Leakey , 100% natural marula oil is made from fruit collected off the ground by hand. The oil is cold-pressed from the kernels and touted as being 16% more powerful than argan oil. They claim that the benefits of marula oil is that it is fast absorbing and high in omega-9 acid at 60-70% concentrations.

The couple lives among the Massai in the Kenyan bush. They wanted to help their neighbors and provide work opportunities without changing their culture. As members of the Fair Trade Federation, they pay fair wages to the artisans, and donate proceeds to over 1,400 Massai women and their families.
Another company with minimalistic packaging is elizabethW  (, based in San Francisco, CA. This company introduced a Shea Butter Body Cream featuring shea butter, ginseng, comfrey, ivy, and cucumber as ingredients. The product’s container can be reused or recycled, and the packaging can be recycled. Packaging material is sourced from sustainably managed forests. All packaging is letter pressed in-house with vintage Heidelberg letterpresses. 

Australian-based Apple & Bee ( introduced its Rejuvenation Bath Salts which contain 100% Australian organic ingredients: sea salt, Epsom Salt (magnesium sulphate), certified organic Australian white clay, certified organic wild geranium grandiflorum (jasmine absolute), essential oil, Mentha Piperita, Limonum (lemon) peel essential oil, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus (lemon grass oil).  The salts are made from 100% organic and natural ingredients, these salts dissolve in water, leaving no waste. They are certified by the internationally recognized organization Climate Friendly. The packaging is 100% organic biodegradable cotton with non-toxic dyes. This company offsets its carbon emissions by buying energy back from renewable sources such as wind and solar power. It has established the Bee Foundation to raise money and awareness for the Colony Collapse Disorder, and to research causes for the decline of honey bees around the world.

Show Wrapup

These were the personal care product introductions I found at Extracts and throughout the New York International Gift Show. Just as day one of the show was buzzing with buyers and orders, I expect the remainder to continue to be brisk. Keep an eye on these companies as well as these trends, which I expect to play out an even bigger role throughout the year.


Unknown said...

Your the best. It was almost like being there. Thanks for condensing and linking to the websites.

backporchsoap said...

Thanks, Kristen. I'm glad you found the information helpful. Lots of lines to check out!

La Dolce Diva said...

Thanks for the great review. Very informative!

backporchsoap said...

You're welcome, Jen! Would loved to have walked the show with you.

Penelope Briggeman said...

Marla, what a great and helpful blog. I wasn't able to make the show but I am glad to hear that buyers were very active! Thank you for all the inspiration that you give people in our industry and to all the support that you give to us all.

Teresa Gregory said...

Awesome review. Thank you for sharing with us.

Cindy Tollen said...

Wow Marla - I felt like I was right there. Awesome post, you rock!!

Chamomile Cottage Natural Bath, Spa & Body Care said...

WOW! You were really busy! I loved reading your reviews of the trends and the new product lines and companies that have launched recently. Perhaps I can attend next year's show. I love being inspired by greatness! This will help me KICK-IT into HIGH GEAR!!!

Lori at The Nova Studio said...

How exciting! I appreciate hearing what you have to say about the way the industry is growing & changing. Great review, Marla!

T.A. Helton said...

I think I visited just about every site you highlighted. Great stuff. Thanks for highlights. Wish this was something that I could attend.

backporchsoap said...

Thanks, everyone! I'm really glad you found it inspirational and insightful. It was a 12-hour marathon from entering the Javits to returning to my hotel room to write and post!

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