One Year After Scott Kay’s Death, the Designer’s Brand Continues



Jonathan Goldman acknowledges it’s a little “ironic” that his company purchased Scott Kay’s, considering the two often publicly tangled.

“Scott and I weren’t friends,” says the CEO of Frederick Goldman. “But when he passed, I lost the Red Sox to my Yankees. I lost the guy who used to duke it out with me.”

Despite their differences, he always respected Kay as a design talent and a brand builder. “He was the most passionate guy I have ever seen in this industry,” he says.

The biggest irony is that Goldman is now charged with carrying on Kay’s legacy, and the work that he poured so much of his soul into.

Dec. 4 marks the one-year anniversary of Kay’s death. In October, Goldman briefed JCK on his plans for the brand.

Goldman admits that when his company bought Kay’s—two months after its founder died—he wasn’t sure what he was purchasing. “We had very little time to look at the company. In 30 days you don’t get to do a lot of due diligence. You just take a leap of faith and say, ‘I believe in it.’ And we believed in this.”

He also saw a chance to broaden his company’s horizons. “We are in the mid-market space of the business. We always wanted to get in the top space. But it’s very hard, it’s very expensive to build brands. Here is a brand that had 30 years of history and had been built with great consumer recognition. We looked at it as an opportunity to acquire a great American brand with great recognition that needs some love and care.”

That “love and care” has sparked a long list of notable changes and behind-the-scenes tweaks. Among them:

Manufacturing. Following the purchase, Goldman re-created all of Kay’s designs using CAD. “Scott didn’t believe in CAD,” Goldman says. “He believed in the old-fashioned, handmade, hand-designed [method]. And I get it. We didn’t take away that piece. We design by hand but then translate it into CAD. That just makes it replicable, over and over, in the right way. It doesn’t take any of the design work, or handwork, or luxury. It just makes it easier for the retailers and ourselves.”

Goldman also centralized all of Kay’s manufacturing in Mexico.

Merchandising. In the next year, Goldman will release a new platinum bridal line and expand upon existing collections with new styles for both men and women. It also now owns a treasure trove of Kay works that can serve as templates for future lines.

“Scott never stopped designing,” Goldman says. “His passion was design. It could be men’s, it could be belt buckles, it could be wedding pieces. Scott had thousands and thousands of designs in his design laboratory. We are in the process of cataloging all of it. It will take several months. It is unbelievable.”

Marketing. The brand’s new ad campaign (pictured, above), which kicked off in November, is built around the “artistry of Scott Kay.” It’s also unveiled a new hash-tagable slogan—“A life together”—and revived the designer’s signature purple. “From boxes to display to advertising, everything will have the touch of purple,” Goldman says. “It’s a color we can own.”

Goldman’s marketing team has also developed a “proposal pouch,” which will let men hide the ring when they pop the question. “Marketing is about solving problems,” Goldman explains. “Sometimes it’s problems people didn’t know they had.”

Distribution. “We want to be more committed to less stores,” says Goldman. “We want those stores to be committed to us. We will be able to do more with less. Scott used to say, ‘In order to go forward, you need to go backward.’ So we will have less doors, make them more committed, and build a great business from less doors.”

It does plan to continue—and will even increase—the brand’s presence on QVC. “Where else can we get TV advertising?” Goldman asks. “This allows consumers to have a piece of Scott Kay that they wouldn’t ordinarily wouldn’t have gotten.”

For all the big plans, the largest challenge may be carrying on the Scott Kay brand without Scott Kay. Of course, many brands, from Harry Winston to Cartier, have continued without their namesakes. But Kay’s work was uniquely personal, and it’s hard to talk about Scott Kay’s designs without talking about Scott Kay the person. Goldman says the company plans to do just that.

“There is so much richness around the brand. We will be training the retailers on what the collections mean. If you are just showing the ring, you are not talking about the beauty behind Scott Kay. Who was Scott? Scott Kay was a great American designer. But it’s not just about the ring. It’s about why the ring was developed. What is the story behind it? What is the spirituality that goes into the collection? What are the elegant details that go into the products? Why is this a beautiful piece of art?

“Scott was a real spiritual guy. He worked from the heart. Everything with him had a meaning. It could be a family meaning, it could be based on things he saw in his travels around the world, because he had all sorts of antiques. We will be training the retailers on what the collections mean, the spirituality. Meanings are very important to younger consumers. It’s one of the things that will help to differentiate the Scott Kay brand.

“We know there is a crown jewel here. Now it’s about giving it life and bringing it back in a great way.”

(Photographs courtesy of Frederick Goldman)

JCK News Director