Whenever I see a company buck the status quo and take a calculated risk that actually makes sense in the context of the current market, my belief in mankind is reinforced and I thank goodness for Darwinian instincts. Burberry just announced that it is veering away from the insane Fashion Week schedule and instead combining men and women’s runway shows together into two annual events. This is streamlined approach is a reaction to the unsustainable fashion week schedule that has resulted in the burnout of brilliant creative minds such as Raf Simmons, John Galliano and Alber Elbaz. I believe that other fashion houses will quickly follow suit because this non-seasonal approach both reflects current consumer behavior and relieves quite a bit of financial strain and waste in the industry. I am cautiously optimistic that this sudden wash of sanity over the fashion industry will have a positive affect on jewelry designers and the jewelry industry as well.
In recent years, due to the prevalence of e-commerce and digital media, the jewelry industry has realized that branding is crucial to a company’s survival. In this new and exciting digital world we live in no one will find you without a brand presence. As the jewelry industry is moving away from the unbranded mom and pop model to one where brands rule, jewelry designers now have to show during fashion weeks in addition to the traditional jewelry show circuit and their own trunk shows for their private clients twice a year. Is it any wonder that more and more jewelry companies are finding this landscape unmanageable and struggling to survive?
In addition to the physical and mental strain designers are facing, the pressure from multi-category fashion retailers to create collections on the fashion schedule are placing a huge financial burden on jewelry designers as well. I’ve always been quite vocal about my disagreement with this approach. Fine jewelry is much more capital-intensive than fashion and it is absolutely absurd to expect jewelry designers to come up with two or three collections a year. It puts a huge financial strain on designers and when the pieces don’t sell because of their higher price points it is the designers who suffer. Fashion retailers bear none of the financial risk because they take all the jewelry on consignment need only return the jewelry to the designers to wash their hand of the inventory.
The designers on the other hand are caught in a vicious downward spiral because they are now stuck with “last season’s” inventory that no one thinks is relevant anymore. They then have to offload the inventory somewhere either by discounting or selling to a secondary market like Gilt or outlet malls. Once a brand’s discounted jewelry floods the market its brand equity will suffer and it is unlikely that the brand will ever be able to regain the luxury cache it once had. In order to maintain margins and survive they have no choice but to start cutting costs, using lower quality materials and manufacturing and before long brand is a shell of its former self with little integrity or pride in its product remaining.
What is the solution then? Taking cue from Burberry’s brave decision to do the sensical thing is a step in the right direction. Designers should review their business models and retail relationships and ask whether those arrangements make sense for their business after reviewing the long-term financial costs of working with certain retailers. Seek out partners who are willing to have aligned interests, have shared values and are structured in ways that will support growth and build brand equity.
This has been our mission at Swoonery and the designers who work with us agree. There is no feeling like hearing from our brands that they finally feel that a retailer is on their side and building with them rather than at their expense. It is my hope that by lifting much of the financial risk off our brands’ shoulders and creating win-win situations for everyone at each stage we will recreate the jewelry industry into one that is beautifully efficient–one where unique aesthetics abound, quality and integrity in craftsmanship can shine and people can once again discover and develop personal connections to fine jewelry in a meaningful way.
OK, if you haven’t already heard of BaubleBar, let me enlighten you about my newest crush. We’ve all heard about mixing high-low ad nauseam, Galliano with J.Crew, Lanvin with Massimo Dutti, etc. etc. But for the most part I have been unable to find really great designs at the lower end of the price range that are well-made AND well-designed. So when I stumbled upon BaubleBar, I went a little overboard. Seriously!
BaubleBar does fashion jewelry better than anyone else I’ve seen out there (OK, there are a few and yes you know who you are and you have or will be mentioned so don’t get grumpy!). In particular, I LOVE LOVE LOVE BaubleBar’s collaborations! They just finished a project with Erickson Beamon (one of my top 5 designer costume jewelry houses) and they still have a few pieces left here and are currently collaborating with DKNY. Bet part of all? At price ranges starting around $20 its guilt free like Fro-Yo! Here are some things I have my eye on:
BaubleBar beauties are perfect for stacking, you can drape a boat-load around your neck and still have change left over for cocktails! YAY! Oh, and hint, they have Twitter feed necklaces. I was debating on whether or not I should disclose this considering that I haven’t yet received mine but alas, altruism reigns. They are like name necklaces except with twitter handles (@DelivMeDiamonds, @Jeanzpoh). CRUSH!. Apparently BaubleBar is revamping its Vault and will reveal a new loyalty program come April 30th so stay tuned.
I was just reading an article in the Financial Times yesterday about how Asia is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the world of fashion and luxury goods. Not only are Chinese companies buying up flailing European brands, they are also creating their own luxury design labels which are then in turn being produced in Europe (the Asian consumer is very picky about quality). Hi, European bail out anyone?
It comes by no surprise then that Hong Kong native, Patrick Wong, owner and creator of Venna is so hot these days on the international fashion circuit. Patrick graduated from Central Saint Martins in London (same school that produced Alexander McQueen, Zac Posen and my dear friend, Mary Ping, brilliant mind behind Slow and Steady Wins the Race) and started Venna in 2005. Venna pieces are all made by hand and considered MUST HAVES by the fashion world at large. What do I think? Honey, I think the fringes are fabulous! I hand-picked a few pieces from his new collection to display here, though he has plenty of divine non-fringed pieces as well. I am especially taken with the Gold Fringe necklace, its like 50’s costume jewelry that got tangled with a gold fringed curtain tie back while its owner was having a romp through the curtains. Heaven! There is a Venna trunk show on at Moda Operandi until April 17th if you care to buy it online. Otherwise, wait for it to hit stores like Lane Crawford, Bon Marche, Barney’s New York, etc.
My goldfish memory didn’t fail me this time! As promised, I shall enlighten those who haven’t discovered the wonder that is Dana Lorenz on the designer behind Fenton and Fallon. If you haven’t heard the names Fenton, Fallon or Dana Lorenz dropped around yet then you’ve been living under a rock. Ms. Lorenz is a darling of the fashion world and has been taking the costume jewelry world by storm since 2006. The designer uses metals, rhinestones, crystals, feathers, leather, fur(!) and any other material she can get her paws on to create irreverent punk-meets-upper-east-side inspired gorgeousness. I’m predicting that Ms. Lorenz will be a funkier downtown-Miriam Haskell for our times.
Ms. Lorenz has collaborated with Proenza Schouler and Thakoon for runway, done capsule collections for J.Crew (I told you J.Crew sometimes comes out with some damn good costume jewelry) and Opening Ceremony. You can find Fenton/Fallon in my happy places Barney’s, Ikram, Colette, 10 Corso Como (Milano), Dover Street Market (London), Luisa via Roma, Liberty and Lane Crawford. I am still slightly shocked that my second home (Bergdorfs) doesn’t carry her line but fear not my happy place online (www.modaoperandi.com) is hosting a Fenton trunk show until March 27th!
Fallon is the younger sister of the designer’s Fenton label and consists of more staple/layering pieces—no sleek way to say it so I’m just going to have at it—its a lower price point as well. If Fenton is your Rick Owens leather jacket, Fallon is the Alexander Wang T-shirt you layer under it. Get me? Good. Now be off and seek out your pretties and remember to blink once in a while—we don’t need you giving yourself diamond blindness.