This post was cowritten with Cindy Edelstein, CEO of the Jeweler’s Resource Bureau and onetime fashion editor at JCK, whose current business is based on helping designers—new and established—master merchandising, marketing, and promotion.
You’ve decided to become a jewelry designer. Congratulations! Committing to fulfilling a dream is exciting and can be rewarding in many ways, provided you understand exactly what you’re pursuing. Here are 10 tips for new artists to know as they attempt to hang a glittering shingle.
1. Know your unique voice—signature style—before reaching out to the media and stores. New designers have to know and effectively communicate their unique selling proposition, which is marketing speak for what makes them unique in the marketplace. Editors and retailers are busy and have dozens and dozens of other new artists—just like you—vying for their time and attention. You have to be able to catch their eye and ear quickly to let them know how you differ from those dozens of other designers. Be prepared to articulate succintly your jewelry’s unique attributes. This takes practice and line refinement.
2. Do your homework and know your competition. You have competition—lots of it. So many designers tell us, “No one else is doing this,” when, in fact, plenty already are. Once you are able to articulate your signature style—David Yurman’s is the cable, John Hardy’s is the Balinese dot, Ray Griffiths’ is crown work—then research the market and know your competitors. Who else is making pieces with similar aesthetics? I guarantee you that others exist. There is room in the market for similar looks, but knowing how yours differs is key to selling it to media and buyers. Understanding your product position, your customer, and the market will help you create a cohesive collection and drive it to the right prospects.
3. Develop a thick skin. There are many designers in the market, and many with stories and styles that may be similar to yours. Your friends and family and even strangers may tell you that your jewelry is beautiful—which is great and inspiring—but that doesn’t mean you should automatically have case space in Bergdorfs. Media or buyers may not feel the same. Prepare yourself for other opinions and insights, listening objectively to constructive criticism, and know that designers who can understand how to sell their jewelry—even better than how to design it—will reap rewards faster and probably more than designers who think the jewelry “speaks for itself.”
4. Know what editors want from you. In general, they all want professional photos on a white background with descriptions of what they are looking at with file names that correspond to your company and credit info. For example, JaneDoeWaterfallEarrings.jpg is a yes and img39240.jpg is a no—unless you have provided a separate written list of captions that clearly states caption info for that particular image. Be friendly and to the point—and even a tad persistent when necessary. Editors and buyers are inundated with requests daily. Don’t take it personally if you don’t get a reply; editors have lots of deadlines to meet, so it’s impossible for them to respond to every email. You should continually send new images to editors via email and consider asking them exactly what they need from you to be considered for press. After they tell you, send them exactly what they asked for. So, so often this simple step doesn’t happen, and it’s the easiest way to get press.
Editor’s note: For editorial consideration at JCK, please email me new professional shots of individual pieces on white backgrounds several times a year, along with description of items, including metal types, carat weights of stones, and suggested retail prices. Send this material to me at JHeebner@jckonline.com.
5. Understand the differences between media outlets. Each publication is different, and you want to pitch the right items to the right magazines for editorial placement. For instance, InStyle is a widely read women’s magazine with a mix of beauty, fashion, celebrity, and jewelry coverage, featuring lots of price-point specific options for readers to feel like they can have on-trend pieces at any budget. Conversely, Town & Country showcases high-ticket jewels that interest well-off women who are status-conscious and design savvy. In the middle is something like Redbook, which is mostly read by moms who spend their disposable incomes on kids and homes, so their jewelry choices lean toward affordable and practical. Knowing this saves countless hours pitching $500 earrings to Robb Report and $15,000 wedding bands to Cosmopolitan. Then there are the trade magazines that are read primarily by retailers. If you sell direct to the consumer, then don’t pitch the trades, because their readers want to be able to buy what they see for resale.
6. Understand the difference between bloggers and editors. Bloggers and editors are similar: Both write blogs and give exposure to jewelry, designers, and retailers, though editors always choose subjects based on the interests and needs of their audiences. Bloggers do so either to serve their readership—like an editor—or because they’ve been paid or the content is linked to a marketing vehicle. For example, Idazzle.com and Adornmentality.com are editorial blogs in nature—the bloggers write about what interests them and their audience, not because they are paid to do so. Meanwhile, the Orange Juice and Biscuits blog has done some promotional work with LoveGold.com to promote gold jewelry at LoveGold’s request, and JCK Marketplace is a marketing vehicle for the JCK shows, featuring images of jewelry and contact information from JCK show exhibitors. When content has a promotional hook, it’s not editorial, it’s advertorial—which plays an important role in the media world. And just like pitching editors, you want to understand the bloggers’ audience in order to send them relevant pitches. Know that some will expect payment in order for a piece to be written about you on their platform.
7. Find your own press. Subscribe to the publication to which you’ve submitted your work, or simply create a Google Alert with your company name to be alerted when your work is featured in a publication. You can also do a simple Google search, such as “Jane Doe JCK,” and then read the search results to find your press. Google searches are quick and easy to do, as is simply searching the website of the publication to which you submitted images.
8. Research appropriate stores for your line. Mass manufacturers should not pitch designer galleries just because they’ve read about them in a magazine. There’s no common ground there. Same for a crafty bohemian jewelry line pitching Fred Leighton—it’s not a good fit. Instead, research stores to know which ones are ideal for your jewelry. Everyone seems to want to sell to the same small circle of cool, popular stores, but there are so many more little-known ones that could sell your work (and their payment terms might even be much better than the “it” stores everyone pines for). This is why it’s important to research retailers and understand customer bases to make sure a match exists. This move is part of the market research that most designers skip in the early stages because they think beautiful jewelry is all they need to succeed. Instead, beautiful product is only one part of the story, and a small one at that. (Cindy teaches this as part of her two-day boot camp. For more information click here.)
9. Get involved. Join multiple industry groups because they offer support, networking, and opportunities that newbies desperately need. This is a relationship-based business, and you can instantly gain a wider circle of support by joining Jewelers of America and getting the publicity benefits of its efforts. Also consider joining the Manufacturing and Jewelry Suppliers of America to connect with suppliers and to have access to a lot of great education from the magazine, its live events, and database of suppliers. Get connected to Platinum Guild International and the Silver Promotion Service for promotional campaigns and opportunities for designers to showcase their work to editors. The Women’s Jewelry Association is a fantastic organization with lots of networking opportunities and designer members who offer support to newbies (both Cindy and yours truly serve on WJA boards). Plus, the Contemporary Jewelry Design Group does a great job of promoting its members’ work on social media and is worth the cost of membership.
10. Know your resources—who can help you if you need further direction. There are lots of individuals and firms in industry who can guide you, give you advice, and serve as a shoulder to lean on when you need it. You will find many through camaraderie in the organizations listed above and through businesses set up to help designers thrive. Here are a few folks who can help you succeed:
Cindy Edelstein, president, Jeweler’s Resource Bureau
Andrea Hansen, LUXE Intelligence
Janet Goldman, Fragments
The Style 360 blog is your editorial source for the newest jewelry, trends, market analysis, trade show highlights, designer profiles, and more.