Diane Warga-Arias Keynotes LUXURY 2014

When Diane Warga-Arias wants your attention, she has a way of getting it—whether it be through giving rousing, fact-filled, and helpful seminar presentations at shows or walking Australian TV-viewing home shoppers through a new line of jewelry. So her efforts yesterday morning at 8:30 a.m. to energize a room full of sleepy LUXURY 2014 (May 27–June 2) retailer badge holders—no small feat—were, not surprisingly, a success.

In a keynote presentation entitled “Redefining Fine Jewelry,” Warga-Arias talked about how great jewelers like Cartier always pushed the boundaries of technologies, tastes, and market conditions, and innovative moves were ultimately rewarded (after an initial amount of resistance, of course).

“Street style is as important as runway fashion now,” she explained. “And celebrity lines of fashion jewelry can be as pricey as fine jewelry. The line are blurring, and she—the customer—doesn’t care because she wants to express herself.”

Warga-Arias went on to challenge merchants to articulate their own unique aesthetic points of view in stores by curating—not simply buying based on SKUs sold—merchandise. “Curators show us the beauty that we would otherwise miss in art, architecture, and in jewelry,” she added. “I love brands, but the pendulum has swung too far in their favor when they tell you how much you’re buying and what you’re getting. Curating from your point of view is unique, and we don’t have enough unique.”

Those with clearly defined store points of view are obsessed with art, architecture, and fashion and reflect an accumulation of what they’ve been exposed to—or not. Among those who’ve done a great job: Stefani Greenfield of Scoop, whom Warga-Aria says “single-handedly created the urban look” in fashion and helped give rise to the idea of curating. Also important: Target for its cheap chic goods and the big-box retailer’s savvy for unveiling location-specific merchandise. “Target is not waiting until they lose market share—they are anchored in who they are,” she says. “It’s about getting the customer’s attention, engaging them, and influencing them,” she says.