Let There Be Lightness



Rado, Alex and Ani, and our culture’s budding preoccupation with minimalism and light

In mid-May, I attended an eye-opening showcase of cutting-edge design in Brooklyn, N.Y. I was a guest of the Swiss watchmaker Rado, the official watch sponsor of NYCxDESIGN, New York City’s official design week, and WantedDesign, a platform dedicated to promoting design with two showcases in Manhattan and Brooklyn. 

The press luncheon included a presentation by Philip Fimmano, the New York City–based director of Trend Union, a trend consultancy founded by the world-famous futurist Lidewij Edelkoort. In his remarks, Fimmano elaborated on a theme coined by Rado and embodied by its lightweight, minimalistic timepieces: a “lighter way of living.”

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The Rado True Thinline in pure white high-tech ceramic (photo courtesy of Rado)

“A major theme of Rado is lightness, and we’ve worked with them to define lightness as a lifestyle trend,” Fimmano said. “Really it’s to show that there’s a whole new design language not just about minimalism, but beyond minimalism. Whether it’s in architecture, in food, or in fashion, it’s more about being lighter and consuming less.”

Fimmano said our culture’s embrace of lightness began with the financial crisis of 2008, partly as a manifestation of consumers’ desire to be discreet. “Now after eight or nine years, there’s a new more mature philosophy that has emerged, which is very much about trying to do less but better and live in a more minimalistic way,” he said.

As someone who admires yet struggles with minimalism, I was struck by Fimmano’s insights into how an obsession with lightness would impact consumer behavior in the not-too-distant future. This past weekend, I was reminded of his remarks when I noticed an Alex and Ani ad pop up on my Facebook page touting a hashtag I hadn’t seen before: #carrylight.

As it turns out, the feel-good brand introduced its new Liberty Copper collection last week and it does, indeed, bear a connection to lightness, albeit of the more metaphorical variety. The limited edition line includes bangles, necklaces, cufflinks, rings, and a number of diamond pieces created in partnership with the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, all featuring an exact replica of Lady Liberty’s torch made from original copper taken from the statue’s centennial restoration. 

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A gold bangle from Alex and Ani’s new Liberty Copper collection (photo courtesy of Alex and Ani)

To promote the collection, Alex and Ani has partnered with Global Citizen, UNICEF, and its Charity by Design partners on the Carry Light campaign, which a publicist described as “a global initiative inspiring people everywhere to spark a movement of light and hope by igniting the light in others.”

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A silver pendant necklace from Alex and Ani’s new Liberty Copper collection (photo courtesy of Alex and Ani)

Like all of Alex and Ani’s baubles, the Liberty Copper collection will come with a signature meaning card. This one reads: “Bearing her torch…we become Lady Liberty’s movement of light and hope. When we CARRY LIGHT, we ignite the light in others, and create one light indivisible.”

Across its social media channels—including this video on YouTube—the company is asking people to answer the question, “What do you #CARRY LIGHT for?” Examples include causes, passions, art, the Earth, and loved ones. The idea is that fans of the brand will share their messages on social media, uniting them with #carrylight.

So what’s a retail jeweler to do with all this? For starters, I’d suggest you start thinking of white as your new go-to palette—both for jewels and displays—because it’s a tangible way to communicate the idea of lightness.

Fimmano said as much in his presentation: “In this new era, a more sophisticated and modest consumer is going to rethink what they consider to be luxury, whether it’s time or intimacy or emotional contact with others,” he said. “They’re not about looking to show off; the new generation of luxury consumers are more interested in being cerebral. You can use white as a starting point.”

Next, consider your inventory. If you carry watches, do you stock models in titanium or other lightweight materials, such as Rado’s signature high-tech ceramic? What about jewels designed to appear light, like these killer mobile-like earrings by Proenza Schouler, spotted last week at New York Fashion Week?

Finally, assess how you use light in your store. “In the lighting area, the big idea is emanating light and things that glow,” Fimmano said. “Whether it’s metal or stone, the energy is something consumers are interested in understanding.”

I know this kind of talk can sound a little woo-woo, but I’m convinced there’s something powerful in the notion of being and bringing light—even if my inner Gen Xer automatically rolls her eyes at the obligatory sharing of it all.

(Top photo courtesy of Alex and Ani)