Fashion Faux Pas

Gemology and technology trump style in Vegas

While I spent most of JCK Las Vegas working at the Honora booth, I had two opportunities to get away: I stepped in at the last minute to moderate a panel on social media, and a little later I was invited to join a lively discussion on how retailers can use fashion to leverage their businesses. Both were informative and enjoyable, but there was one notable difference—the social media session was standing room only, while fashion was nearly empty.

I understand that social media is the “it” topic of the moment, but I was surprised and a touch disheartened to see fashion overlooked. At first, I feared it was simply a matter of scheduling, but after a few discussions with others who had sessions on the topic, it seems all the fashion panels were equally poorly attended. Gemology and technology were important in the minds of many retailers, while they tended to ignore the world of style. Beyond my own disappointment, this disregard for fashion has me worried for the industry. Sure, we are selling precious metals and gemstones, but we need to remember that we also sell style and design.

I am far from a fashion maven—to be honest, I can barely dress myself. Yet even if you are like me and this topic is outside your comfort zone, you need to at least understand what is happening on the runways and the red carpets in order to compete. More and more, we are concentrating on gemological information, and this may cause consumers to look at the beautiful pieces we display in our cases as a commodity.

The commoditization of jewelry is the risk we run when our focus lies entirely on the gemological merit of a piece. The popularity of sites like Cash4Gold has already done enough damage, causing people to look at jewelry as something you eventually throw on a scale and rip apart for a profit. We need to remind them (and ourselves) that often what we are selling is a piece of wearable art. Becoming a fashion resource for customers can go a long way toward ­taking the emphasis off the materials and reigniting their passion­ for the designs we feature and/or create.

Fashion needs to be part of the experience we offer within our stores. There were a number of practical ideas on my panel: Create cases that show off the latest trends and how designers are interpreting them; highlight jewelry that features the hot color of the season (hint: think green!); go beyond trend—find out what celebrities are wearing and showcase similar products to help customers “steal” the look; and show customers how to get the most out of the pieces they have already purchased—rather than letting them sit in the jewelry box until the Cash4Gold commercial comes on again.

While we depend on our education and technology to sell big-ticket items, we need to take the time to learn what is happening in the world of fashion. Of course it’s important to make consumers understand the value of what they are buying (GIA certificates aren’t going anywhere), but there is opportunity in going beyond the tangible and encouraging customers to see the craftsmanship and artistry behind the designs we are trying to sell them.

Keeping on top of trends, colors, and the ever-changing world of what is in and what is out can go a long way toward keeping jewelry—and all of our businesses—from going out of style.