Industry / Retail

Retail Expansions Continue for Vrai, Rebel Nell, and Brilliant Earth


Jewelry brands Vrai, Rebel Nell, and Brilliant Earth are all opening or have recently opened additional retail locations, moving their brands into new cities as well as expanding into shopping centers as jewelry sales and customer interest in jewelry continues to grow.

Here is a look at how they designed their stores, what special features they brought in to highlight the local flavor of each city, and how they are thinking about the customer experience in these new retail locations.

In November, Vrai opened its second U.S. showroom in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood. This past fall, the Diamond Foundry–owned brand opened its Melrose Place showroom in Los Angeles as Vrai boosts its presence in North America. Vrai also has showrooms in Shanghai and Xi’an, China.

Vrai’s San Francisco location feels like an art gallery with its open format and displays that make its man-made diamonds look like artwork. Architect Cass Calder Smith worked with Vrai to develop the space, its custom fixtures, and furniture. Highlights of the space include its center diamond bar for showroom staff and clients to meet as well as a wall projection showcasing its Vrai-created diamonds, its foundry, and its latest advertising campaigns.

VRAI interior
Vrai and its designer brought natural wood tones and concrete floors to its newest showroom in San Francisco (photo courtesy of Vrai).

The showroom also centers on Vrai’s efforts toward sustainable luxury, using recycled and natural elements in its overall design. It has repurposed concrete floors in addition to American walnut wall cases and furniture with blackened steel hardware and other details.

“Our showrooms have common elements unique to our brand that tie them together, but they are all distinctive to the cities where they are located,” says Vrai CEO Mona Akhavi. “Our Hayes Valley showroom is the epicenter of technology and modern luxury where customers can experience our jewelry and learn about our diamonds in an immersive environment.”

Detroit-based Rebel Nell opened its first stand-alone retail store and its first outside of Detroit in Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi, a shopping haven located in the suburban metro area of Detroit. The store opened in late November to catch the holiday shoppers who come into the mall and surrounding area.

Rebel Nell CEO Amy Peterson said the store is retail only, and the socially conscious brand and social enterprise will continue to do all of its manufacturing at its Detroit headquarters. That Detroit location also has a small retail storefront where customers can pickup online orders as well as browse for additional purchases.

Rebel Nell Louise Jones necklaces
Rebel Nell highlights its unique collections, such as its collaboration with the artist Louise Jones, in its newest Michigan store (photo courtesy of Rebel Nell).

“[The Novi location] is an opportunity for us to put our brand out there among other brands we respect,” Peterson says. “It’s a good testing ground as well for us to create a fun, welcoming atmosphere and to incorporate local artists in the design.”

The Novi location features Rebel Nell staple collections including the Motown Museum Album collection, Big Heads Parade collection, Comerica Park Dugout collection, and Ouizi collection, which features a one-of-a-kind painting from noted muralist and painter Louise “Ouizi” Jones. Mainstay collections made from fallen Detroit graffiti including Everyday, Strong, Unique, and others will be available at the store.

A highlight of the store is its pictures of the women who work at Rebel Nell, Peterson says. Rebel Nell began in 2013 with one mission: to employ women facing barriers to employment in Detroit and provide equitable opportunity and wraparound support to help them transition to a life of independence. Cofounder Peterson was living near a homeless shelter at the time and found inspiration in the fallen graffiti found strewn nearby.

“So much of our brand is about storytelling, but we’re also a family—when you’re buying a piece of Rebel Nell, you’re investing in a small business and in our mission,” Peterson says. “That’s why there are photos of our team in our shop, so you understand the faces behind the pieces.”

Brilliant Earth recently opened its Scottdale, Ariz., location and is working on a Bethesda, Md., location to be opened sometime in early 2022. These are the company’s 15th and 16th locations in addition to stores in Texas, Illinois, Colorado, Oregon, Georgia, New York, Washington, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and California.

In its third-quarter 2021 financial news update released Nov. 12, Brilliant Earth’s cofounder and CEO Beth Gerstein said in a statement that the company’s omnichannel model, which includes retail stores, “continued to resonate strongly with our millennial and Gen Z consumers.”

Top: Detroit-based Rebel Nell opened its second retail location in Novi, Mich., a suburb of where the social enterprise started and just in time for the holidays (photo courtesy of Rebel Nell).

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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