Every Thursday during the pandemic, we’re checking in on members of the jewelry trade in an attempt to glean shareable tips and tricks for doing business—and living as well as possible—during the COVID-19 crisis.
Today we hear from jewelry designer and retailer Lauren Wolf, founder of bicoastal jewelry retail chain Esqueleto and her own collection, Lauren Wolf Jewelry.
JCK: Hi, Lauren! Where are you based right now?
Lauren Wolf: I’m based in Oakland, Calif., and we’ve been here the entire pandemic, minus a few road trips here and there. We have a small team in our studio, so we’ve been able to be back working in person for some time now, which has been amazing.
How would you say business is right now at Esqueleto, and for your namesake collection? And has business changed much over the past year?
Business is great right now at Esqueleto, but I do feel that’s always subject to change with the unpredictability of the pandemic and its effects on the economy. We are forever thankful for our customers who keep coming back for more. Our Lauren Wolf Jewelry collection has been doing well too—our biggest outlet for our namesake collection is through Esqueleto, so if that business is doing well, then our namesake collection is doing well.
We’ve naturally trended away from a large wholesale distribution, but still continue to work with our longtime wholesale partners and have continued to do so throughout the past year.
As a shop owner in California, how have you navigated the lockdowns and closures this past year?
They have been tough! All our shops are located either in New York City or California, some of the hardest hit areas, so it was difficult keeping the shops closed and knowing when and how to reopen. Luckily, we were well positioned with our online business, and we were able to continue to sell the work directly with our customer base through our online platform.
Has the pandemic changed your plans for Esqueleto?
I wouldn’t say that our overall plans for Esqueleto have changed, but we definitely took a moment to re-evaluate the business as a whole and think about how to best restructure everything once our shelter-in-place order was lifted. I think all small businesses will be forced to operate in a different way post-COVID-19.
We’ve been hearing about an uptick in fine jewelry sales from many. Why do you think people are so keen to buy jewelry right now?
Yes! We have seen an uptick in fine jewelry sales, which has been great for us in the industry. Obviously, people are traveling less, eating out less, and staying home more often. I’m sure the home goods industry has seen a huge spike in sales as well.
I think people still want to feel good even though they are mainly staying at home. Even a simple necklace or a great pair of earrings can really spice up a Zoom call! Jewelry is so personal to each wearer, but even having the consistency and reliability of that special piece or pieces of jewelry can make each day a little brighter for the wearer.
What types of bridal looks have been selling strongly for you at Esqueleto? What are the big trends?
I would say we’ve seen a big uptick in vintage bridal trends, and more interest in our solitaire-type settings, whether vintage or contemporary. And from our collection, we’ve been selling more of the weighty gold, single-stone rings too. I think people are looking to “simplify” the engagement look at the moment and turning toward a more classic trend.
How have you been feeling lately—or what have you been thinking about pertaining to the pandemic?
To be honest, I’ve been charging along throughout the whole pandemic with a bit of trepidation, but mainly optimism for when we will be past the pandemic. But lately I have been feeling the COVID fatigue. I think all of us were hopeful that 2021 might [have taken us] a little further along than we are now, but we all know that there is still quite a bit more time until things can return to “normal” again.
How do you Zen out? What do you do to relax?
I would say Indian Springs in Calistoga is my go-to for zoning out and relaxing, but alas, that has been put on hold, too. I do cherish a few moments alone in my house with my three cats, when my energetic 6-year-old and husband have stepped out for a few hours.
Any entertainment recommendations you can share?
Oh wow, yes, I must say that I’m unabashedly hooked on Outlander at the moment. Nothing like a fantastical romance series to take your mind off our current pandemic situation.
Top: Lauren Wolf with her son (all photos courtesy of Lauren Wolf)
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