It’s All About Accessories!

Three venerable luxury jewelry firms, Mikimoto of Japan, Chopard of Switzerland, and Carrera y Carrera of Spain, have joined the growing cadre of high-end jewelers extending their brands to include a collection of signature accessories and gifts. Mikimoto and Carrera y Carrera announced the launch of their new accessories collections at the Basel Fair in March, and Chopard, which has had accessories for a number of years, introduced its latest collection of eyewear at the fair.

The luxury accessories category has experienced explosive growth over the past five years. According to a recent report in Women?s Wear Daily, price is of secondary importance to consumers. Their first concern is how much ?fun? they have shopping for and wearing accessories. Department stores captured 29% of total accessory sales; specialty stores followed with 18%; discount stores garnered 15%; chain stores, 12%; off-price stores, 8%; factory outlets 7%; direct mail, 6%; and ?other,? 5%.

Much of the growth at the high end can be attributed not only to the robust economy but also to the continued ?democratization? of luxury. High-end names such as Bvlgari, Chopard, Hermès, and Asprey & Garrard have extended their brands to include ?entry-level? products that cost less than their luxury items but carry the same cachet. Less-than-stellar sales of designer and high-end apparel also have contributed to the accessory category?s growth. Both the trend toward casual workplaces and an ongoing lack of newness in designer and bridge apparel lines have contributed to lackluster sales, sending consumers in search of jewelry, accessories, and shoes to add individuality and excitement to their wardrobes.

?Mega-branding.? Mikimoto?s new accessory and gift collections are part of the company?s ongoing branding initiative, says Kevin Lane, Mikimoto?s vice president of marketing. ?We?ve always had some gifts, but we?re trying to take ourselves to mega-brand status,? Lane says. ?We?re primarily known as a pearl house, and we still are a pearl house, but what many people may not know is that Mikimoto in Tokyo is a full-service jeweler, with diamonds and gifts as well as pearls.? The company tested its accessories in New York last December at a party in its Fifth Avenue store. Tremendous positive response prompted the firm to move ahead and launch the full collection simultaneously with its new logo. A signature fragrance is in the planning stages, says Lane.

Mikimoto?s new collection of accessories includes silk scarves, purse pens, compacts, lipstick brush holders, perfume atomizers, and handbags. The firm?s new gift assortment includes desk and travel clocks, picture frames, crystal, writing instruments, and baby gifts. Retail price points begin at $35 for accessories and $45 for gifts. The top price is $3,300, for a crocodile handbag.

Mikimoto?s purse accessories have a pastel satin finish and are accented with a cultured pearl. The scarves are 100% silk twill squares, with designs based on the firm?s successful seashell and fan motifs as well as its newest theme, Africa. Also on tap is a series of crocodile and lizard skin purses in a variety of colors, and for evening, a series of limited-edition silk bags adorned with antique Chinese mother-of-pearl gaming chips.

In conjunction with its accessories launch, Mikimoto also unveiled its new logo, a geometric, streamlined ?M.? The logo is an integral part of both collections. It will adorn some models of both handbags and purse accessories, and it?s a key element in the design of the firm?s new pen. The ?M? pen, retailing for $295, has a three-part design incorporating a mechanical pencil, ballpoint pen, and fountain pen. The three writing instruments interlock, forming a sleek sculpture inspired by the Zen-like spirit of a Japanese bamboo garden. The firm?s Hanami crystal collection will include hand-cut goblets, champagne flutes, tumblers, vases, and bowls. The baby gift collection is based on a circus theme of clowns and stuffed animals and includes cups, spoons, picture frames, porcelain canisters, and trays.

Mikimoto plans an aggressive advertising campaign in consumer fashion and lifestyle publications. The collections already are available in Mikimoto?s New York store. They are expected to be available to Mikimoto retail accounts this summer.

Chopard?s origins date back to 1860, when Louis-Ulysse Chopard began making hand-finished pocket chronometers. He soon followed those with precious jeweled watches. Karl Schuefele bought the firm in 1963 and extended the brand to fine jewelry. Today, the company offers a selection of scarves, fragrances, accessories, and, since 1995, eyeglasses. Chopard?s accessories collections all follow its primary design themes. ?Casmir,? for example, evokes the splendor of India?s grand temples. The firm?s newest eyewear collection, launched in Basel, is the Ice Cube collection, which comes in green, anthracite, ruby, and brown along with classic black. Another new collection is ?Nouvelle Classique,? which features three women?s styles and one rimless man?s style. These are crafted in 23k gold-plated metal with a cabochon-cut gemstone accent.

Spanish jeweler Carrera y Carrera, already renowned for its watches and objets d?art as well as its jewelry, has launched a collection of silk scarves and small leather goods. The silk crepe and twill scarf collection is inspired by the firm?s Ginkgo jewelry line and features a print of the leaves of the ginkgo plant. Retail prices for the scarves will be approximately $200.

The leather collection draws upon another traditional Carrera y Carrera theme, the horse. It features men?s and women?s wallets, bags, and purses in two-tone black and brown leather. Retail prices for this collection begin at around $100 for small accessories and go to $1,000 for larger bags. A fragrance is under consideration.

?We feel the accessories are helping us cover all the different parameters of merchandise we need to have a complete presence [in-store],? says Roberto Cristobal, president of Carrera y Carrera USA. ?The accessories are geared to a customer who can?t necessarily afford the jewelry, but they also appeal to customers who can.?

The firm plans to open a series of in-store ?boutique corners? in selected fine jewelry stores in the United States. The first, inside Lester Lampert Jewelers in Chicago, is already open. The second, slated for the Molina Boutique in Phoenix, Ariz., is scheduled to open soon. The firm?s goal is 10 in-store boutiques. It also plans to open two branded company stores in the year 2001, one in New York and one in Los Angeles. For now, the firm plans to advertise its jewelry but not its accessories.