Brief Baubles: Jewelry & the Sharing Economy

Millennial. Startup. “Uber of X.” Viral. Cord Cutter. Experiential. Influencer. Gamification. Hacking.

Today’s colloquialisms provide a unique challenge for content producers, forcing us to navigate a tightrope strung high over a cavernous hole of hashtags, hits, and SEO-driven buzzwords. It sure does grate on you, after a while.

So please grin and bear it as I throw another one out for your consideration: the sharing economy. Defined by others as “collaborative consumption” in direct opposition to Veblen’s original “conspicuous consumption,” the concept applies to anything you make use of but do not own. Big-ticket items like cars and houses were the first aboard this bandwagon, and predictably other 1status items have followed suit.

The latest to join the game is the jewelry and watch world, following in the footsteps of successful concepts like Rent the Runway for designer clothing and BagBorroworSteal for, you guessed it, high-end pocketbooks. These companies allow their clients to order items online to be shipped to their homes, worn for a limited time, and shipped straight back. Talk about fast fashion.

The obvious issues do come up from time to time: theft, accidental destruction, genuine loss. But rental-based organizations often forge strong relationships with the designers they carry, and many offer or require various premiums that amount to insurance for just these situations.

I have been asked on more than one occasion my opinion of this type of consumerism, mainly in regards to its impact on the future of the luxury industry as defined by its success with younger generations. My response may surprise you, though certainly not my mother, whose special designer duds I’ve been trying to steal borrow for years: I’m all for it.

Taken in the short term, it’s true that renting and returning merchandise offers little gain for luxury sellers who are strapped for cash and customers. But by allowing these online (read: no overhead) entities to handle the logistics for them, both major and emerging designers can build a larger following based on exposure and experience. It’s this magical combination that gains the trust of today’s HENRYs, and will turn them into more education (and therefore more satisfied) purchasers later on.

Try it, then buy it… when you can afford it. Or when you love it and don’t want to return it because you have to have it for yourself (or for someone else).

A number of luxury accessory companies have entered this new market. I was most impressed by a startup called Eleven James, as they currently focus solely on mid to high-level timepieces. Watches are not a fading fad as some might claim, but their role in our daily lives has shifted from necessary time-telling device to pure fashion (or status) statement. Eleven James capitalizes on this concept, and provides a concierge experience with multiple tiers that aim to match a range of budgets and tastes.

Flont is another newcomer, providing temporary access to a swath of designer jewels. A recent news release from Rapaport’s Diamond.Net says:

“Flont, which offers a jewelry-renting service, has raised $5 million from investors to grow its inventory and staff and help fund an expansion into the Chinese market.
The company describes itself as a pioneer of the “Jewelry as a Service” model, in which it lets consumers wear jewelry for a fee for a fixed period, or take out membership for unlimited rental.”

So that pair of Bvlgari earrings you can’t currently afford, but would go perfectly with your cocktail dress at that wedding this weekend? Rent them. Want to wear a diamond necklace that’s the real deal for your wedding? (Do I even have to say it?) Hello, something borrowed.

“’Borrowing incredible jewelry, and experiencing it first-hand, is the best way to discover brands and designers, while developing a lifelong affinity,’ said Cormac Kinney, founder and CEO of Flont, in a statement last week.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Readers, what do you think? Would you rent a watch of piece of otherwise unattainable jewelry, either for a special occasion or just because you could? And equally importantly, would it influence a future decision to buy it (or something like it)?

Media Moment: Girls and Pearls

Particular. Meticulous. Finicky. Fussy. Picky. Persnickety. I’m difficult to please, okay?

I suppose it makes me a good gemologist and jeweler — detail-oriented, and all — but high standards often lead to high expectations, which can sometimes lead to… disappointment.

But I’ve learned to manage those expectations over the years, especially mitigating my hopes for anything related to industry media, PR, or advertising. This is not to say that we don’t have some superlative examples of journalism around, but it’s the cheesy crap from big box retailers that has become the common diner-coffee-consumption we anticipate every holiday season.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I saw this article, discussing Mikimoto’s new approach to their iconic jewel (not to mention a top-ten jewelry standard): pearls. Please take a moment to peruse the short piece, and definitely watch the ad, which will air only on social media.

While many of us in the fashion world wouldn’t exactly call “wear your pearls with your leather pencil skirt” a groundbreaking idea, the ad itself resonates because of its tone and underlying message. Pearls can be sexy, pearls can be mysterious, pearls can be worn outside the boardroom or your sister’s wedding.

My perfectionist self finds plenty of faults with the add, primarily the missed opportunity to show off the fantastically cool clasps available in today’s market. But nonetheless, I rarely see a jewelry-specific spot that gets the tone so absolutely dead on — it’s almost hard to believe that it comes from so unexpected a source, but I’m not complaining.

What did you think of the ad? And more importantly, how did that model get perfectly-winged eyeliner without the apparent use of a mirror?

 

 

 

 

New Cover Art

As a little girl, I spent hours of my free time ensconced in cozy nooks and tiny chairs hidden between towering bookshelves in our local library. A friendly librarian noticed my love of reading and encouraged me to reach beyond the age-appropriate sections, taking the time to instruct me in the proper book-shelving etiquette and finer points of the cryptic Dewey decimal system.

But in truth, I was able to locate most of my favorite books not by numerical efficiency, but by spotting the familiar dust jacket on the shelf. Spine out, cover, or back-facing, I could identify the usual suspects immediately, and took comfort in the familiar typefaces and colorful depictions of important scenes from the story.

Years later, I remember roaming the no-longer-towering stacks of a nearby bookstore. and feeling more lost and confused than comforted. The titles were familiar — Alice, Matilda, Jane, David, the gang’s all here — but I no longer recognized the classics from their covers alone. The art had changed, often dramatically, and it occurred to me that these “new editions” would need to appeal to a much different audience than in the years of my own childhood.

Identifying a drooping interest in classic literature, the publishers clearly banded together to calculate what type of visual stimuli today’s buyers require in order to open their wallets. Longtime favorites received the royal treatment, those undying words wrapped in leather bindings, gilded, fanciful lettering, and sold in sets with their peers. Newer contributions become wildly colorful, with wrapped jackets that probably took longer to create than the authors took to write, and were marked with exorbitant prices and “special edition” stickers.

But as a beloved nanny certainly knew, a fancy wrapper and sugared coating can go a long way towards catching a child’s eye in a room full of other distractions. Call it what you will — rebranding, new marketing campaign, or my personal favorite, “updated” — but it works.


This anecdote is what came to mind when I first viewed the latest releases from the world of diamond campaigning. The two new ads are an attempt to reach the Me generation on their level, re-packaging the traditional messaging of love = diamonds into something with equal parts playfulness, sex appeal, and a down-to-earth acknowledgement that relationships can come in many forms.

Regardless of the quality of this content (debatable) and questionable length (a little too long), the surprising clarity of the message is what interests me most. Marriage is no longer the cornerstone of our society’s structure, but that doesn’t mean the concept of long-term love and devotion has fallen by the wayside. It has simply transformed, and in order to remain relevant in a landscape that no longer resembles the white picket fences of yesterday to an astonishing number of people under 40, our communication must perforce change along with it.

While I’m not really a member of the target demographic, I can absolutely see the strengths in this type of merchandising. These ads appeal to me far more than the usual run of predictable romantic interludes and lame last-minute gift plugs, so perhaps they’ll have some real staying power and will begin to turn the attention of the next buying wave back to the idea diamond jewelry as an enduring statement of… well, whatever they want it to say.

I’d love to hear your reactions to this new direction. Have a look, share it around, and please share your thoughts.

Travel the World, Pantone Style

Remember when I wouldn’t stop talking about color, and you thought my posts would never end? Well, you were right. But with the latest announcement of 210 new colors from Pantone, the Be-All-End-All Final Word on All Things Color (or so they seem to claim), can you blame me?

Of the approximately 10 million colors the human eye can see, the 52-year-old company has named, numbered, printed, collated, and collected a total of 2,310 colors including the newest additions. A drop in the proverbial bucket to be sure, but impressive when you consider the level of standardization they must achieve in order to standardize these colors. The highly consumable formats — cards, swatches, folders, books, etc. — are used by fashion and interior designers (and many others) to quickly and accurately describe colors.

Many of the new shades are intensified versions of familiar faces, with major expansion in the pink and orange categories. I sense a lean toward the exotic, with lots of richness and food-relevant hues that play well both with each other and as standouts with a neutral. Credit is given to the worldly and well-traveled Pantone creative team — and they do indeed spend time in countries around the globe, noting the color trends in food, fashion, and even technology. However, I’d like to think that a more globalized palette is simply long overdue in such a connected and visually-focused age. These beautiful new additions simply reflect a more complete view of the world as we see it.

As a kid who came of age in what I call the Crayola era, I grew up surrounded by such delicious-sounding color names as “macaroni and cheese”, “wild blue yonder”, and “razzmatazz”. Anything called “pink flamingo” or “fuzzy wuzzy” was just irresistible to me, and I pleaded for box after specialty box as much for the creative names as the vivid colors and gently pointed tips each new set would bring. The colors could transport me to favorite book settings and faraway places long before I later traveled there myself.

These days, the Pantone colors will set you back a bit more than your average ten-year-old’s allowance. It’s worth noting that these two prismatic powerhouses have never officially collaborated, though many color-savvy stylists will often reference both names of a similar color in order to evoke just the right shade. But perhaps, like a page from a coloring book, this newly-expanded array of colors will carry you away to a favorite childhood memory… or even a whole new destination, right from the comfort of your living room.