Customer Watch: Keeping Focus on the Customer

In these days of huge statement necklaces and piled-on bracelets, it can sometimes be difficult for a jewelry retailer to remember that jewelry is all about adornment. Jewelry should always flatter the wearer. In other words, it’s all about the customer; it’s not just about the jewel itself, however wonderful a jewel may be.


The same item of jewelry will look fabulous on one individual and quite horrible on the next, and for any number of reasons, such as the jewelry’s size, shape, color, density, motif, overall scale, scale of detail, brilliance, brassiness, age-appropriateness and so forth, as these factors relate, or fail to relate, to the wearer. This is why the young woman who inherits Aunt Agatha’s pearl necklace may be disappointed when she sees that the ivory pearls that were so lovely on her aunt’s sturdy form look out of proportion and surprisingly yellow when worn on her longer, more slender neck next to her much pinker complexion.


The July 2009 issue of In Style magazine features actress Michelle Pfeiffer on its cover and contents page in two different ensembles that provide examples of adornment – one done well, one not as well.


Let’s start with the contents page, showing Pfeiffer in a short-sleeved, textured Giorgio Armani top or blouse, and Armani jeans. The earrings she is wearing are by Irene Neuwirth; the bracelets, by Cathy Waterman. The bracelets, which appear to be bangles of diamonds and yellow gold, play a supporting role, adding a touch of style to the length of exposed arm. They mesh well with the glittery textured fabric of the soft taupe top. It’s the earrings, as lovely as they are, that pose a challenge.



Here’s a great time to try out the image consultants’ technique of the Blink Test. Where do one’s eyes go when observing the contents page photo of Michelle Pfeiffer?


I see the earrings first. The large, elaborate design of the yellow gold earrings draws the attention of the viewer, and their low placement brings the eye down to the low part of her face and from there to the actress’s body and the elaborate top she is wearing, the length of her torso, the lowness of her jeans. What you don’t notice in this photo is Pfeiffer’s face. It gets lost due to the competition from the highly decorated circles of the earrings and the textured interest of the blouse.


I would have preferred to see Ms. Pfeiffer with smaller earrings playing a supporting rather than a starring role. In that case, the viewer’s eye would have seen a large visual frame created by her hair and the neckline of the blouse, centering her face. The focus would have been on her lovely face. The earrings interrupt that framing effect and operate as a distraction.



[Compare images with and without the earrings. Notice how the earrings interrupt the framing effect of her hair and neckline.]


Another way to modify the look would be to utilize earrings of a similar design but that sit on her earlobes, rather than be suspended from wires below her ears. Lifting the earrings up an inch or so would make a difference in their effect and would cause the eye to linger on her face.



Notice that the earrings look perfectly lovely on Ms. Pfeiffer, when one doesn’t take into account the entire ensemble she is wearing. As you can see in the above close-up, the earrings balance her features nicely. Viewing jewelry as part of an ensemble in a full-length mirror is critical in order to understand the full impact of the jewelry and to decide when some editing of accessories is in order.



Now let’s look at the cover photo, which shows Ms. Pfeiffer in a striking low-cut blue dress by Versace, adorned with what appears to be a seven-strand necklace of bright multi-colored beads by Tom Binns. That’s a lot of jewelry – a great deal more than the yellow gold earrings. And yet, with all their colorful whimsical style, the beads are not so strong as to distract from the woman; rather, they adorn her. The viewer’s eye sweeps down over the beads and back up to the actress’s face and her bright blue eyes. The effect is playful, approachable and very charming.


For all its quirky style, that’s a necklace that succeeds mightily in the art of adornment , for this celebrity wearing that dress.

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