JCK Editor-in-Chief explains trends and their impact on the marketplace to GIA students

JCK magazine Editor-in-Chief Hedda T. Schupak explained the impact that consumer trends have on jewelry designs and the marketplace during a lecture to students at the Gemological Institute of America’s world headquarters April 18.

Using current examples, Schupak demonstrated how fashion trends mirror underlying societal shifts. “Design trends don’t happen in a vacuum,” she explained.

In a world of post 9/11–inspired patriotism, the tendency toward nationalism brought a new movement in jewelry and fashion, she noted. Flags, stars, and stripes proliferated as a style fad, but the longer term has brought about renewed interest in old Hollywood glamour and more subtle expressions of American style: Clean-cut elegance, simple sportswear, and turquoise jewelry were shown on the runways.

Schupak also pointed out how consumers’ rationale for buying luxury items evolved. “Emotional gratification has replaced status as the driver of luxury goods purchases,” she said. People are acquiring fewer, but higher-end quality items, and they are purchasing all luxury goods—including jewelry—as an emotional connection.

To succeed in the current marketplace, focus less on price, Schupak recommended. “Build desire based on emotion.”

Modern consumers will “trade down to trade up,” Schupak continued. Students will buy generic breakfast cereal in order to afford the “Starbucks experience,” and similarly, business people will travel on frequent flyer miles so they can build the funds required for a diamond necklace.

How people define luxury has also changed, Schupak said. Whereas to the World War II generation luxury meant formality, today it means comfort and convenience. Jewelry has become an everyday accessory instead of a special indulgence. “Nowadays it’s OK to wear diamonds and pearls with jeans,” she said.

Everything old is new again, Schupak said. She explained how trends swing like a pendulum into countertrends and back again. “This whole ‘retro’ movement taps into a longing for simpler times. With all the choices we have, globalization, and the time-shortage trend, it’s no wonder that we’re reverting back to a simpler time like in the ‘50s,” she said.

One trend Schupak indicated that the industry has not responded to fast enough is that women today buy much of their own jewelry and drive 85–90 percent of all household purchases.

Other important trends Schupak advised staying on top of: Branding and the Internet.

Brand identity is important to both male and female customers because it makes them feel the way they want to feel, Schupak explained. And the Internet is here to stay –although, she added, “It’s not the end of the brick-and-mortar jewelry store.”

Successful trend forecasting means professional people-watching, Schupak noted. “In order to survive, you must be able to observe, adapt, and change what you’re doing to suit the trends and time.”