Big Brands Not Allowed At One of a Kind Christmas Show

What do you get that special person on your list who already has everything? Something truly one of a kind.

On Thursday the 24th November, I beat the weekend crowds by going to the 2016 One of a Kind Christmas Show early on Opening Day.  I paid twelve dollars for parking and another fifteen to get in the door. I knew I’d made the right decision the moment I walked in the hall;  the place was deserted, which is exactly how I like to do my Christmas shopping.

Occupying at least half of the entire Enercare Centre at Exhibition Place, the 2016 One of a Kind Christmas show accommodates about nine hundred exhibitors. This number I arrived at myself by walking through the show. There are twenty-five aisles, one for every letter of the alphabet (minus Z) and there are approximately thirty-six vendors in each aisle, eighteen on each side. So, if you do the math, it adds up to more people that you could ever talk to in one day.

Show guide The mission of the One of a Kind show is to provide a juried marketplace that brings together makers and buyers who share a commitment to handmade excellence.

Since its debut back in 1975, the One of a Kind show has been cultivating creativity, craftsmanship and connection in order to deliver an inspired shopping experience.

Do you come here for the craft workshops? This year there are more and bigger DIY craft workshops at the show.  Run by volunteers who are often web celebrities, its common to see internet-famous scrapbookers, pastry chefs and origami wizards in these classrooms. The scheduled activities are certainly very diverse; this year there’s a Mandala holiday card making class, and another teaches how to stencil totes, and how to decorate holiday cakes and cookies.

Santa's elves at 2016 One of a Kind Show

After asking the elves at the counter to check some alphanumeric codes, I set out into the show…

Sadly for crafties reading this article, this author is not interested in home wares, or decorative arts of any description, or even jewelry or fashion clothing. I paid no attention to these merchants which I understand are the true grassroots of the event. This is the basic artisan fare that the show started with thirty years ago. Even worse for foodies, I didn’t waste my time perusing exotic confectioneries or shop the food section at all. Come to think of it, I didn’t even see a food section.

But I did get caught up in the ladies coats section…

Coats by Mary Ellen of Toronto

Mary Ellen CoatsAlong the way I was impacted by Toronto based coat making company, Mary Ellen.  This is a family run business, and by family, I mean its all owned and operated by five siblings. Mary Ellen herself is their sister, not their mother or aunt or long deceased grandmother.  Mary is a contemporary wool coat designer and her whole family helps make her fashions. I think that’s remarkable. Could you imagine earning your livelihood making and selling product with your sister’s name as the brand? Mary Ellen wasn’t at the show that day – they must save her for the weekends.

coats made in Toronto by Mary EllenI especially liked Mary Ellen’s homemade clothing labels, printed on red construction paper.  When I buy beautiful clothing, I like seeing crisp homemade labels and what’s especially exciting for me is to see local manufactures proudly putting their address on their labels. As I get older, I fancy having an entirely bespoke wardrobe in which everything I wear was made locally by artisans and ateliers whom I know personally and patronize more often as their art matures.

Homemade labels are a stylish choice for clothing designers, but look very unprofessional on cosmetics and creams.

PEC lavender at one of a kind showAs I rounded the corner into the cosmetics section, I found myself seeking out the most clinical exhibitors, and I only perused the displays the offered the most professional looking packaging. Subconsciously I was seeking the  clinical sterility of science.

A video showing the proprietors of Prince Edward County Lavender distilling essential oils right on their property drew me into their exhibit at the show.  Their artful display of lavender essential oils and bath lotions kept me there. I purchased the products because of the labels on the bottles.

In previous years, the essential oils I’ve bought had unvarnished paper labels that soon became unattractive and dirty looking as the bottle was used. If any oil drips down the side, the vessel’s paper label soon becomes incomprehensible.

waterproof label

PEC Lavender has evolved to use varnished product labels made by Lorpon Labels right here in Toronto and I perceive this small ingredient in their presentation as a mark of distinction and attention to quality.  The beige labels on the opaque plastic Prince Edward Co Lavender bath oil bottles were also varnished, and now smooth to the touch; they will not peel or bubble if the bottle is dropped in the bathtub.

custom printed labels for bubble bath - fragrance bottles

Skinalicious Soaps is the star attraction in the bed & bath section of the 2016 show. The Burlington based soap manufacturer has mastered the art of the visual display, selling soaps with delicious sounding names cut from blocks that resemble fudge.

skinaliscious Soaps

I wasn’t the only shopper there sniffing soaps. Time passed more slowly as I savoured the scent of each ‘flavour’ before ordering the Fruit Slices (smells like the hotel rooms at an upscale resort), and Maple Sugar which smells just like the sugar coating on the donuts of the same name.

exotic soaps at one of a kind show

Much like the lavender farmers who co-host an annual summer festival in July each year, the Skinalicious proprietors host D.I.,Y. soap making workshops and encourage participation and spark passion in their consumers by offering rare and special ingredients like Apricot Shells Exfoliate, Rosemary Powder, and whole Raspberry Seeds. They also have a unique packaging solution.

printed stickers for soaps at trade show

Each fresh cut bar of soap is wrapped in wax paper bound with a custom printed sticker showing the Skinalicious Brand and the name of the product.

Da-No Sheepskin Slippers for Dads

Richard at Da-No Slippers

As I was leaving the venue, another attractive exhibit with a charismatic vendor selling moccasins for men called out to me.  Upon inspecting the merchandise and once again looking carefully at the labels (which appear entirely in French), I bought a pair of fur lined leather slippers for my Dad.  Richard David the atelier at Da-No. The booties cost me a hundred bucks, but here again I got to meet the man that made the goods (*update – after bringing the slippers home and trying them on in my bare feet I’ve decided to keep them for myself and get my Dad something else!)

This Christmas edition of the One of a Kind Show & Sale runs from November 24 to December 4, 2016. The show opens each morning at 10am and runs till 9pm each night. There’s late night shopping on December 1st only when the show stays open an extra two hours till eleven pm.














About Rob Campbell 48 Articles
Rob Campbell went to film school and worked in the movie business for a decade, laboring behind the scenes in hundreds of productions as the reliable but annoying grip-with-a-script.