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.
My character, Dinah Madani, is just the coolest, [most] badass woman imaginable," says @amberroserevah. The actress stars in @marvel's newest series on @netflix, @thepunisher. To prepare for her role, Revah sat down with Homeland agents to get a real sense of with Dinah's day-to-day life is really like. Read our full interview on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
A scene from the 91st annual @macys Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade, which boasts 50 million TV viewers and 3.5 million on-site spectators, is considered one of the largest and most watched parades in the world. (📷: Jason Szenes/EPA-REX)
The circus came to @bloomingdales 59th Street on Tuesday night and lit up Lexington Avenue with acrobatic dancers, death-defying knife throwing, sword swallowing and aerial acts with no net. The 45 minutes of theatrics built up to unveiling the holiday windows depicting @swarovski crystal-encrusted circus pieces and scenes from “The Greatest Showman” – songs from the soundtrack included. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Joshua Scott)
The psychedelic fashion that pervaded the ’60s is back with an exhibit at the @museumofcityny. “Mode New York: Fashion Takes a Trip” chronicles the changing styles from 1960 through 1973 and features designers such as @ysl, @oscardelarenta and more. The exhibition, which is on display through April 1, is organized into four periods: First Lady Fasion, Youthquake, New Bohemia and New Nonchalance. Pictured here is model Pat Bardonella during the Garvey Day Parade in 1968. (📷: @kwamebphoto) #wwdeye #wwdfashion
“People should be a lot more honest in expressing both the dark and light of themselves. We need to give each other the space to do that because it’s the only way we can grow and evolve,” says @noelwells of her new film “Mr. Roosevelt,” which is largely based on her own struggles. Unexpectedly leaving @nbcsnl in 2014 after just one season, Wells felt set back in her self-esteem and career trajectory. She quickly refocused her energy to more personal projects, which led to the completion of “Mr. Roosevelt.” Read the rest of WWD’s interview with the “Master of None” actress on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
@barbrastreisand is giving fans a chance to see her perform up close in a new concert series, which makes its debut on @Netflix today. From behind-the-scenes takes to her concert performance in Miami last December, the two-hour streaming special captures Streisand in her element. Pictured here is the singer/actress photographed for WWD in 1963. (📷: Palmieri Tony) #wwdeye #wwdarchive
@chanel and @pharrell dropped what’s being dubbed as the world’s most exclusive sneakers yesterday. The Adidas Originals NMD Hu, which Williams designed in collaboration with Chanel and @adidasoriginals, has a waiting list of over 120K people who pre-registered online at chanelatcolette.fr –– and only 500 pairs are on sale. The singer predicted the resale value of the shoes could reach $40K. Read the full interview on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdfashion (📷: Dominique Maître)
@imanshumpert is diving deeper into his creative endeavors and relaunching his clothing line, Post 90s, and is helping to raise money for the hurricane victims in St. Maarten with a jersey he’s designed with his brother. The Cleveland Cavaliers player talked to WWD about kneeling during the national anthem, working with fashion brands and how he wants to be more than an @nba player. Read the interview on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)