When times are good (and not terrifying), independent fine jewelry brands are often the ones that more easily secure splashy editorial coverage, celebrity placements, and other PR-centric wins. The successes of buzzy indie brands including Foundrae and Retrouvaí were, in part, built on such mini milestones.
But when times are tough—as they most definitely are right now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic—small jewelry brands are among the most financially vulnerable.
In an effort to combat the business-eroding impacts of the pandemic, several indie brands are taking matters into their own hands by creating avenues to allow them to sell directly to consumers—as both stand-alone brands and in collaboration with other designers.
On Monday, JCK’s Amy Elliott wrote about jewelry designer Bibi van der Velden’s online boutique, Auverture, which was founded in 2016 and has ramped up its representation of chic, rarefied fine jewelry brands (Alice Cicolini, Eva Fehren, Nikos Koulis, Pamela Love, Alina Abegg, and Daniela Villegas, among them) to fill the void in brick-and-mortar retailing created by mandatory closures. Van der Velden is also partnering with several of her fellow designers to create a bracelet series that financially benefits the designer group.
Jewelry designer Samantha Jackson, founder of reclaimed-and-revamped fine jewelry collection Heavenly Vices, has debuted a new retail endeavor, the Essential Jewelry Collective (EJC), with jewelry journalist Beth Bernstein. EJC corrals small, hard-to-find brands—Moritz Glick, Hannah G, Karen Karch, Grace Lee, KatKim, and Talon, among them—that are well-known to jewelry fans but may otherwise be under the radar.
The new platform currently has a dedicated Instagram page where it’s posting bios and photos showcasing its brands, with links to every brand’s IG feed. A proprietary e-commerce shop is in the works.
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Heavenly Vices speaks to old souls who appreciate the past and revere the decadence and beauty of fine jewelry. Inspired by sentimental engraved coins called Love Tokens from the Victorian Era, the collection includes antique love tokens from the 19th century set in various customizable gemstone bezels, modern rings borne of common themes and motifs of the era, and castings of the most universal and whimsical love tokens in designer Samantha Jackson’s vast collection. Click on link in bio to view the Essential Collective curation. . . #stayhome #shelterinplace #goshopping #givegifts #mothersday #mothersdaygifts #essentialjewelrycollective #heavenlyvices #designerhelpingdesigners
A post on the Essential Jewelry Collective IG feed (image via: @essentialjewelrycollective)
“EJC was an idea Beth I conceived in response to the COVID crisis to deal with the immediate and unplanned necessity to shift to direct-to-consumer sales,” Jackson tells JCK. “Many independent designers including myself had planned trunk shows and in-store events with our retail partners. But when it became clear that this was not going to be a few-weeks shutdown, we had to change our thinking. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we had before they existed.”
Jackson adds that the unity among designers from within the collective has been inspiring, noting, “From the outside one might think that people trying to survive and sell in this environment might be reluctant to help someone else competing for consumers and sales. But that’s not the case. Using social media to foster online shopping, we can control our collective destinies, utilizing our innate creativity and embracing a paradigm shift to the ‘new normal.’ With COVID-19, this is the first time in a long time that our priority isn’t responding to a design challenge, but to an execution challenge.”
In jewelry, direct-to-consumer retailing (often seen as DTC or D2C in print) has exploded in the past few years, with online-first DTC brands including Mejuri and AUrate doing brisk business and capturing millions in venture capital to help them reach “starter” jewelry buyers who have shown resistance to shopping in traditional jewelry stores.
The store closures during the coronavirus pandemic have accelerated the growth of such brands, which across the board focus on technology advances in retailing as much (or as more) as they do product mix and design. In an email sent to media members on April 9, DTC direct-mail agency Belardi Wong reported that in a survey of its 300-plus clients, more than 50% of the respondents reported an uptick in sales.
The sales boost to online-first brands makes perfect sense in a time when millions of Americans are confined to their homes and many are shopping exclusively online.
Top: Karen Karch Jewelry rings as seen on EJC’s feed (image via: @essentialjewelrycollective)
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