Direct-to-consumer fine jewelry brand AUrate has turned two of its New York City pop-up shops into permanent stores.
The brand, which closed $13 million in Series A funding in June—the largest Series A round ever secured by a fine jewelry brand—soft-opened the two concept stores Oct. 12 in storefronts in SoHo and on Madison Avenue, where the brand staged two of their first-ever pop-up shops.
Both the SoHo space (1,242 square feet) and Madison Avenue shop (916 square feet) feature a three-room progression: The first room spotlights the ethically sourced stones used in the jewelry; the second focuses on the NYC craftsmen who forge the jewelry by hand; and the third focuses on the “AUrate woman”—a consumer mirrored by AUrate’s smart, stylish, and self-possessed millennial cofounders, Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui.
The 4-year-old brand, which does around 80% of its business online, has always taken a data-driven approach to its initiatives—mining both qualitative and quantitative findings to hone its product and user experience. Kahn and Ezzahraoui are taking the same approach with their new permanent stores: They consider the spaces to be in a state of soft evolution as they collect data to finalize the user experience in each.
“We’re testing the way our customers will react with visual merchandising and the sales associates,” notes Kahn. “And we’ll find out what they’re looking for…we’re able to make changes as we go.”
A portion of AUrate’s Series A funding went toward establishing a rock-solid brand identity. The cofounders hired branding agency Red Antler to help them hone the company’s consumer-facing mission and messaging. A new tagline—”Jewelry for Life”—emerged. The brief phrase nods to the idea of breaking down barriers that exists between fine jewelry and modern women, a subsection of which presumably considers fine jewelry aspirational or even unattainable.
AUrate’s goal has always been to “democratize gold” by keeping markups low, having open merchandising (jewelry’s not under glass in its stores), and offering a range of styles that jibe with the hectic lifestyles of self-purchasing women.
“We decided to make a statement about what we’re about,” says Kahn. “So instead of focusing on women who are looking sexy…we’re showing women doing their thing. We’re showing women doing whatever they do. [Fine jewelry] doesn’t have to be this precious product. It’s women lying on the grass, hailing a cab, just living their lives. That’s what the campaign is about.”
A new website recently debuted as part of the rebranding (and there’s not a hint of millennial pink on it), and the company deployed a serene-feeling advertising campaign that includes bus shelter signs in NYC.
The cofounders worked with the same female-owned and -operated architecture team behind The Wing on the new stores, which they strived to infuse with the same feel-good vibes as their brand’s website.
“The customer told us, ‘We come to you for the product and the price point,’ ” says Ezzahraoui. “Then they like the whole story—the inclusivity of the brand and the democratic way of buying jewelry. And emotionally it makes you feel good: You get something really high quality, but it’s ethically sourced…and you feel like you’re part of this community that’s empowering women. When you leave the store, it just feels good. And that’s what we’re trying to do with the stores.”
Top: AUrate founders Bouchra Ezzahraoui and Sophie Kahn (photo courtesy of AUrate)
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