Jewelry and the “F” Word: Fashion

In a conversation with a fellow industry professional last week, I made this comment about the attitudes of certain types of clientele:

“We work in fashion. Why should we expect them to treat their jewelry any differently than their shoes or handbags?”

Death stare.

“We don’t work in fashion, we sell real jewelry.” Meow.

To me, this attitude is wrong on several counts. First of all, jewelry by definition falls under the broad umbrella of fashion items, along with any other accessory or article of adornment. It’s also governed by the same basic tenets (brand focus, trend awareness, color and style aesthetic), follows seasonal cycles, and even maintains a demographic pattern heavily based in income and access. All of these are hallmarks of fashion, regardless of price point.

To say that we are an industry apart implies that our buyers are not behaving in the same way as fashion buyers, and that is simply not the case. While some would like to think that selling a person on the sentiment or investment alone will close a sale, the simple reality is this: if buyers are convinced that one is enough, then repeat business is dead in the water.

The only way to build and maintain a healthy and growing industry is to encourage the idea that no purchase need be the last. You bought a wedding band? That’s wonderful, meaningful, and special — but what about another one for the other side, say for your anniversary? I’m tickled pink that you love your favorite dress watch, but wouldn’t you like something a little more casual — but no less beautiful — to wear every day? And wouldn’t those classic diamond studs look marvelous this evening when they’re dressed up with a set of diamond and sapphire enhancers? Of course they would!

My customers don’t own one pair of shoes, one bag, or one coat (especially in New England. Come on people, we have seasons!). Leave your arguments about consumerism, conspicuous consumption, and class divisions at the door: our entire industry — beauty and yes, fashion — relies on convincing the customer that he or she should have at least one more. Ten dollars or ten thousand (ten million and up, too), there is no time for semantic distinctions between your branch of the tree and mine.

 

Color Me Wild: An Ode to the Bold and Bright

As a child growing up just outside of Boston, one of my favorite places to visit was the Museum of Science. What kid doesn’t love to watch lightning strike indoors, make music by walking a staircase, or explore the world of prehistoric creatures? But one of my favorite exhibits was on an upper floor down a lesser-known hallway, tucked inside an area designated for learning about the way the human body works. Anatomy and physiology were never my strong suits, but a display dedicated to color, scale, perception, and the human eye-brain function never ceased to amaze me. From optical illusions to swatch-matching, I couldn’t get enough.

(As anecdotal evidence of my passion, I memorized every color in my Crayola crayon box by age 10. How else would an elementary school student know how to spell — and pronounce — cerulean?)

It’s unsurprising, then, that I’ve always had a particular love of color and design. I tormented my own mother after discovering her partial colorblindness (just the color green, strangely enough) but redeemed myself by always helping her select coordinated outfits and even picking the paint color for my parents’ new kitchen.

It follows, then, that the study of colored gems in particular leads to a rather in-depth look at color and a specialized vocabulary not found among the crayons. Fashion and lifestyle brands are now heavily influenced by the renowned Pantone Color Institute, which both maintains accurate and reliable color swatching and attempts to predict (or rather, set) each season’s feature color and palette. This has an interesting side effect: some businesses hop aboard the trendy train, embracing each new color and promoting its use in everything from home decor to nail polish. Others will purposefully split from the popularized palettes, choosing instead to pursue a kind of counter-culture aesthetic instead.

The result of this new focus on color seems to be, primarily, a lot more of it. Wildly color-and-pattern-centric classic brands such as Vera Bradley and Lilly Pulitzer are back in the spotlight, with the latter about to debut its first mass-market collaboration with Target (the brand follows other bright and bold names such as Missoni). While monochromatic styles will likely never be a thing of the past, it does seem that more colorful plumage and the self-expression it brings has moved to the forefront.

Where does this leave me? My little Yankee heart will always have room for the classic, tailored lines of seaside, citified, prep-school standards like khaki and navy. But my lifelong appreciation for color feels right at home in an industry dedicated to the beautiful, creative combination of every color under the sun, so this little dove feels more than ready for some finer — brighter — feathers.