LONDON — Bec Astley Clarke is on a mission to wean women off their diet of designer and branded accessories — and encourage them to invest in fine jewelry instead.
One of the company’s big pitches to customers — whom she describes as “educated self-purchasers” — is to “Go precious every day.” Another is to stop being so precious about wearing fine jewelry every day.
“We encourage our customers to mix high and low price points, layer and just go for it — to do what they’re doing with apparel,” said the founder and owner of Astley Clarke, which sells a mix of designer and own-label jewelry online and at stores such as Liberty, Selfridges and Harrods.
For her part, she’s offering them fine jewelry that won’t drain their bank accounts: Prices range from about 50 pounds, or $82 at current exchange rates, for a red enamel and gold vermeil ring and can go as high as 10,950 pounds, or $17,850, for a pair of diamond drop earrings.
“The jewelry world has traditionally been about Bond Street or the high street — and there was very little in between. We want to own that middle, aspirational ground and to celebrate colored gemstones and collectibility. We encourage our customers to buy jewelry rather than another handbag,” she added.
So far, Astley Clarke’s strategies appear to have been working: The company that began life as a pure e-commerce player in 2006, selling jewelry by designers including Shaun Leane, Pippa Small and Carolina Bucci, has been rapidly diversifying.
In 2010, it began to offer Astley Clarke branded collections, all of which are designed and manufactured in-house. This year, those collections will account for 65 percent of turnover, with the balance coming from the designers’ pieces.
Astley Clarke said some of the own-label collections are growing at a rate of 70 percent year-on-year. And she added that 70 percent of the traffic on the site comes from customers searching for Astley Clarke branded products.
Among the bestsellers from the own-label collections is the Bolsena, a slim leather bracelet that comes in a variety of colors and can be customized with a variety of charms. The bracelet costs 150 pounds, or $245, while the sliding charms start at 55 pounds, or $90.
The Astley Clarke Colour collection — with pieces that range from enamel and gold vermeil rings and bangles to smoky quartz or amethyst rings — is also a top seller.
The Astley Clarke own-label collections, with names like Couture, Diamonds and Muse, are competing alongside designs from Solange Azagury-Partridge, Shaun Leane and Monica Vinader.
“Having started as a multi-brand jeweler, we are now building an international luxury jewelry brand,” said Astley Clarke. She added, however, there are no plans to phase out the independent designers’ collections.
“What we will be doing, however, is being a bit more strict about how many new designers we bring on, and the level of sales they need to be generating. But it’s nice to have the mix,” she said.
Astley Clarke is also expanding on a variety of sales platforms. It has three U.K. shops-in-shop and is looking to be a multichannel business, with e-commerce and brick-and-mortar wholesale and retail.
Earlier this year and with little fanfare, the brand launched a site in the U.S. that offers free shipping, no duty, no tax and next-day delivery. Astley Clarke said it has done well so far.
In the month of October, 24 percent of overall sales came from outside the U.K., and half of that figure was from the U.S., she said. Astley Clarke, a private company, does not reveal sales or profit figures.
Astley Clarke declined to give details of any further expansion in the U.S. or whether that market would be a priority going forward. “We’re looking now at where we start to expand, in the U.S. or Asia. We still don’t have an Asia Web site yet,” she said.
Earlier this year, the company said it had received a second round of investment from Carmen Busquets, a founding investor in Net-a-porter, and the owner of the CoutureLab and GiftLab e-commerce sites.
Busquets has now invested a total of $1.2 million into Astley Clarke. At the time, the company said it would use the new funding to invest in the brand’s equity — such as updating the design and identity and raising brand awareness — along with developing new collections and investing in interactive technologies to engage with luxury consumers online.
Those plans are on track: The company recently relaunched a more polished Web site and will reveal its new packaging early this year. The boxes will be gray with gold trim, while the paper is handmade in Japan and hand-printed in London.
There'll be no rest for those headed to Europe for men's, as Paris just closed the gap with Milan. According to a provisional calendar released by the Chambre Syndicale, Paris Men's Week will now open a day earlier on January 16. See new highlights on the official lineup on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
BREAKING: Jonathan Saunders is leaving @DVF. The designer has resigned from his position as chief creative officer of Diane von Furstenberg, the company said in a statement on Friday. At the time of his hire, von Furstenberg said Saunders’ arrival symbolized and facilitated her stepping back from the day-to-day duties that occupy the work of a full-time creative director. The British designer joined DVF in May 2016 and was in charge of all product categories. #wwdnews
For @versace_official’s spring ad campaign, the brand emphasized the archival prints from the spring tribute collection dedicated to the late Gianni Versace. Closing out the show were five of Gianni’s favorite models: Cindy, Naomi, Carla, Helena, and Claudia. Bowing on December 18, the new campaign is yet another tribute to supermodel-dom as the images by Steven Meisel are fronted by @iamnaomicampbell, @cturlington, @gisele and more. #wwdfashion
Four-time Oscar-nominated actress Annette Bening has been waiting 20 years to play Gloria Graham in "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool," which will be released on December 29. The movie about Graham – a Hollywood star known for her controversial relationship with a younger Englishman named Peter Turner – is based off a memoir Turned wrote. "She felt vulnerable to him, because she loved him, she really did love him. And anyone that we really truly are in love with, we re vulnerable to in a very deep way," said Bening. Read our full interview with the modern icon of an actress on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @ninebagatelles; Styled by @cristinaehrlich)
The crisp white button down: a staple that can be dressed up or down and accessorized throughout the decades. Here, on a Art Basel-goer in 2017 on the left and on the iconic Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday” in 1953 on the right. #tbt #wwdfashion (📷: Andrew Morales)
Known for her work with @victoriassecret, 25-year-old model @georgiafowler is raising her profile in Hollywood. Fowler stars in @vincecamuto’s holiday campaign, which launched in partnership with “Pitch Perfect 3.” “Almost every shoot with Vince Camuto, I’ve had to face a fear…It was definitely a challenge. I’m so grateful for it, though. I’ve always wanted to be a pop star, so that was the perfect chance,” Fowler said. Head to WWD.com to read about Fowler’s experience modeling, including at the #VSFashionShow, and her relationship with Nick Jonas. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
EXCLUSIVE: Huda Kattan just became the first beauty influencer to land a major beauty deal. Kattan's business, @hudabeauty, has received a minority investment from private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners. The brand, which industry sources say is on track to do $200 million in retail sales for 2017, will receive support on product, retail and geographic expansion through the deal. Get all the details on the deal and read @_a_collins' interview with Kattan on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdbeauty #wwdnews
Peruvian model @juanaburga_official – who is known for walking the runways of @rodarte, @viviennewestwood and @torybuch – is making the move to the big screen with drama “Los Últimos.” The film premiered in Argentina in November and arrives in the U.S. and Europe in 2018. On making the switch from modeling to acting, Burga told WWD: “It’s a completely different thing – a lot of people think it’s similar or try to connect things, especially like getting used to the camera or being looked at all the time or playing these different characrers, but film is a completely different story.” #wwdeye (📷: @jgreenery)
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)