All industries are faced with a pre-and post-pandemic era, and this is particularly notable with the fashion and luxury industry. One of the most interesting is the emergence of a strengthened jewelry industry.
Unlike other categories of the luxury industry that are more stagnated, we see newness and even some growth in the jewelry industry despite the pandemic. Perhaps this is because jewelry brings us joy and makes us dream, and has done so during a time when we most needed it.
What have the jewelry brands that are growing done differently? There are several factors at play here.
Authenticity: An authentic language is key. Start with what makes you dream and brings you joy; you will convey that in an authentic way and your clientele will respond in kind. During the recent FT Luxury Business Conference, jewelry-maker Charlotte Chesnais spoke to Jo Ellison, editor of “How to Spend It,” about her brand. Chesnais explained how she launched it in a very organic way, as a way of expressing her own point of view (which is very much the key): “I never launched the brand thinking it would be big, and the buyers were receptive to it.”
Charlotte Chesnais had previously worked in ready-to-wear and found her signature through that path. She wasn’t aware of the rules of jewelry making per se, and thus had a unique outlook.
Photo credit: Anne Piqué
I also recently interviewed Anabela Chan, one of the pioneers in the sustainable jewelry space. She makes the most exquisite jewelry, is a trained architect and has also worked in the fashion industry for All Saints and Alexander McQueen. During our interview, Chan explained that when she was first starting out, she simply sent an email to family and friends about her upcoming trunk show—and was astonished by the turnout and overall response to her jewelry. She credits this as one of the first turning points in her own business.
Be curious, and ask the right (and sometimes even difficult) questions. This might include, for example, a focus on sustainability, using different materials, and adapting to the materials you have at hand. Anabela Chan questioned the mining of diamonds, and started her research by going directly to diamond mines in Sri Lanka. She went behind the scenes at these mines, and began to question how to improve the process. Her answer: lab-grown diamonds. And so it is that now she uses lab-grown diamonds. Further, she also makes stunning jewelry out of recycled soda cans. Her curiosity and her ability to ask the right questions have made her a pioneer in the industry.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Anabela Chan
Embrace the digital space. Digitalization has had an impact on all sectors, and this impact was accelerated during the pandemic. While it may seem counterintuitive to launch and grow a jewelry business during a pandemic, it was actually one of the rare industries that saw more development, mostly because the majority of sales are happening online. It was a unique synthesis of jewelry brand launches coupled with an accelerated pivot to online shopping. Furthermore, it’s an advantage for small brands to utilize digital transformation in a unique way; to tell their stories creatively, and not rely solely on brick-and-mortar shops to do so. The importance is creating an experience for the customer through the digital world; personal touches, such as online shopping advisors who can try on different jewelry for you, can be quite beneficial. Talking to your customers directly is incredibly important, particularly to tell your story and to tell customers how you are different and unique. It is imperative for small and medium sized brands to utilize the digital space and tell their stories effectively. Embrace the digital space and think outside the box.
Small vs big brands: Design that has an impact, and therefore can become timeless – that’s the key, according to Francesca Amfitheatrof, Artistic Director of Watches and Jewelry at Louis Vuitton, who spoke at the FT Luxury Business Conference. Comparing the approaches of small versus larger brands, she says, “Of course, a lot of big brands are now in jewelry. Money has shifted into digital, and small brands are not as visible as they once might have been. On the other hand, a mistake big brands are making is that they are afraid of having a creative director; they have become corporations and are run with a strictly corporate mindset. Jewelry is emotional, and it can’t be run with such a mindset. Actually, the big brands can learn from small brands by giving reign to creativity and having a creative head who sets the tone, take risks, and remains flexible.”
Photo credit: Courtesy of Anabela Chan
Think long term. It takes time. It’s about the long term. As Charlotte Chesnais says, “I have taken decisions that were not easy, but I was building for later. It doesn’t happen overnight. Especially with jewelry: you need to build a clientele, and get people on board. Jewelry is not a fast-moving product, it’s not commercial per se. It’s an emotional product and it takes time to establish yourself. So, when sourcing materials and designing, think long term. Always.”