Q&A With Lex Atencio of John Atencio: The Brand Reenergizes Its Wholesale Operations

The bold sculptural designs of longtime Denver-based jewelry artisan John Atencio may be only a memory for some, but it’s one that’s now poised for regrowth thanks to son Lex joining the family business.

Lex Atencio has recently been tapped to partner in the sales, global operations, and branding operations for the company’s wholesale division. Lex has honed his skills working in the company’s six retail locations during the past five years and aims to lead overall strategy and brand repositioning while broadening the domestic wholesale base in the next 18 months. Joining Lex in the newly revitalized wholesale division are Nan Palmer, previously with David Yurman, as director of wholesale, and Ashley Gamer, who was with Pandora, as manager of wholesale coordinations.

Learn what else is happening with the firm, below.

JCK: The John Atencio brand has been quiet on the wholesale front for a number of years. Where have the brand’s energies been directed during this time, and why is it returning to wholesale now?

Lex Atencio: The recession had a much bigger impact on our wholesale side than on our own retail stores in Colorado, so we chose to concentrate on that portion of our business for the past few years. We maintained a strong presence in several of our key accounts, but we focused on our core customers and loyal fans near home. Over the past year or two we’ve seen great regrowth from our accounts, as well as from past customers, so our wholesale side is amping up again to meet the demand.

JCK: For those unfamiliar with John Atencio, describe the signature style of the jewelry and how it fits into today’s market in terms of look and price point.

Atencio: Clean lines, asymmetry, and bold shapes are unique to John Atencio, and our customers enjoy having something different.

JCK: Does John still head up design? How, if at all, are you advising or supporting him in this arena?

Atencio: John absolutely still drives design, and he is surrounded by an extremely talented team—from trend analyzers to CAD renderers. He and I meet regularly about ideas or changes to the jewelry while it’s still in design stages. I bring market intel back to him from our accounts across the country and from what I see and feel going on in my generation. We’re both committed to the John Atencio brand staying relevant to millennials and to boomers. Additionally, in the last few months we’ve worked together as a father-son team to design the first John Atencio watch.

JCK: As I’m sure you are aware, the wholesale market has changed a lot since John Atencio was quite active in it. How will you help the brand prepare for the market today? For example, how do you propose to make the jewelry appealing to millennials who aren’t buying much jewelry at all and to baby boomers who can afford to buy more jewelry than they do?

Atencio: A really important reason why I’m in my current role is that I’m able to interact with customers around the country. I’m able to see what the trends are, and I listen to feedback from our clients. I’m able to come back with exciting concepts and designs.

Millennials are a demanding segment of society; we strive to be different, and we want to be enthralled by stories and molded by experiences. My dad started creating jewelry by sneaking into the jewelry studio at his college at night. He’d drive up to Aspen, Colo., on weekends and sell his creations on the street out of his VW bus. Regardless of your generation, it’s fun to be a part of a story like that. The jewelry isn’t mass-produced, and there’s a lot of love that goes into each design and finished product. It is important for me to share John’s legacy and to connect on a personal level with both millennials and baby boomers. It makes the brand relatable, and each piece of our jewelry has its own story.

JCK: In this crowded jewelry marketplace—there are thousands of designers and manufacturers worldwide, many trying to sell to Americans—how will the John Atencio brand of today stand out? Why should a retailer consider stocking (or restocking if they previously carried the line) John Atencio jewelry?

Atencio: We already stand out. We’ve created a very recognizable brand, from name to jewelry. The strategy now is to acquire a new customer base, both for younger and older clientele. We are offering something for everyone with regard to looks and price points. John will stay true to his core values as a designer with a focus on current trends.

What makes us successful in wholesale is our business experience. Having six of our own retail stores gives us valuable insight into how our wholesale customers can be successful with our brand. Not a lot of other jewelry designers have that behind them. And I have a phenomenal team behind me that knows how to build the brand and work with retailers to create success in different markets.

Starting retail price: $195 in silver and $750 in 14k gold

Accounts: 25 domestic, including Stuart Moore in San Francisco; Newport Beach, Calif.; and New York City

Trade fairs: None yet

Retailer buy-in: $10,500 in silver, which includes three top-selling silver collections, and about $15,000 in 14k gold for two collections

Contact: Lex Atencio, Denver; 303-717-8160; johnatencio.com

SMALL_Fuego Ring   14k rose gold   $1325   9x6mm Morganite   7=.03ct 14-R1620-rg-mg.jpg

Fuego ring in 14k rose gold with morganite and 0.03 ct. t.w. diamonds, $1,325

Originate Cuff    14k yellow gold $4650   3=.32ct.      14-b1569-yg.jpg.jpeg

Originate cuff in 14k yellow gold with 0.32 ct. t.w. diamonds, $4,650

The Style 360 blog is your editorial source for the newest jewelry trends, market analysis, trade show insights designer profiles, and more.

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