6 Takeaways From Leonard Lauren’s Chat on Lifestyle Branding at the WJA’s JNO

Last week’s Jewelry Night Out, organized by the Women’s Jewelry Association’s New York Metro chapter, was a fabulous affair complete with more than 200 guests—topping last year’s event numbers—and a seasoned, high-profile speaker with plenty of life lessons to share. JNO took place on Sept. 10 at the Mid Town Loft & Terrace in New York City, with sponsorships from Absolut, Tudor City Wines, the Silver Promotion Service, Antfarm Photography, and the JIS and LUXURY Miami shows. The guest speaker was Leonard Lauren of Ralph Lauren, the famed clothier’s brother who worked with him as Ralph built up the business, and yours truly served as the moderator. Here are six of Leonard Lauren’s most salient points.

Leonard Lauren of Ralph Lauren was the featured speaker at last week's WJA Jewelry Night Out event

Courtesy David Stewart Brown Photography

Leonard Lauren of Ralph Lauren was the featured speaker at last week’s WJA Jewelry Night Out event.

1. On adhering to brand image

“One can only develop a brand if he or she has a passion for it—a belief in it. Do not treat the brand as a moneymaker; if you do, you will fail. It took 45 years for Ralph Lauren to become an overnight success.”

2. On being able to sell successfully to both the young and mature shopper

“Ralph Lauren created a children’s line because licensing opportunities were coming into play. The Ralph Lauren brand was exploding, and this led to licensing opportunities in other categories. RL was very selective and chose only top-notch vendors who could maintain their high-quality image. The birth of the children’s Polo line was simply a factor of children copying the adult RL culture. The children’s line copied the adults. Any category that was being explored as an offshoot to the Polo brand had to meet certain criteria—quality, status, volume.”

3. On how to diversify and grow a brand properly

“The product has to be meaningful. You should not flood the market with nonsense. One has to be selective and go with his or her heart. One must be discriminating. If you try to develop the brand with a hit-and-run approach—with the attitude to make a quick profit—then the brand will not flourish and grow properly. The brand will deflate and move into an unprofitable, unproductive area.”

Danielle Ingwer Cohen of the WJA's New York Metro chapter introduces Leonard Lauren of Ralph Lauren

Courtesy David Stewart Brown Photography

Danielle Ingwer Cohen of the WJA’s New York Metro chapter introduces Leonard Lauren of Ralph Lauren at JNO.

4. On why the brand debuted Chaps after Polo

“Ralph Lauren created a secondary brand in the Chaps name that made the look available to even more shoppers. Chaps still channeled the nobility reference of the upper class while appealing to the middle class through strategic marketing and planning. Basically, RL knocked itself off before the competition did. They successfully accomplished this with the development of the Chaps line. The Chaps line maintains style and design while utilizing different fabrics and tailoring to reach the alternate audience price restraints. This happened slowly. The Polo name had to maintain a top-tier status for years before moving into an alternate brand identity. One MUST always start at the top with a brand—never at the bottom. One can never go bottom up with brand development, only top down, strategically planning all the way through the process.”

5. On RL’s decision to move into jewelry

“Jewelry is part of fashion. It is forever present on our runways along with the clothing. Jewelry gives the garments a completed look; it is the finishing touch to the entire ensemble. It was and always will be a natural progression. We concentrate on the costume end of the business because it can be edgier and it appeals to the younger audience. The accessories set the stage and are a big part of everyday living—jewelry gives the flair and sparkle and sets off the clothing designs.”

6. On what jewelers can do better to drive demand

“Jewelers have left the romance out of the equation. The intimate personal appeal is missing. Jewelers need to insert a more intimate club feeling into their store environments. They need to better embrace their clients. Hang pictures of clients on the walls, send thank you notes, and so on, to make the atmosphere a place the clients would like to hang out. Jewelry needs to come into another world—the common world other than jewelry. Our business is too aloof. We need to expand into other worlds. Who sponsors a golf tournament besides watch companies? Tiffany makes the trophy for Super Bowl—we need more of this thinking to better succeed in the jewelry business these days. It is not about us—the jewelers—it is about the common world.”

Leonard Lauren addresses JNO attendees

Courtesy David Stewart Brown Photography

Leonard Lauren addresses JNO attendees.

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