The hippie chick has grown up — and she wants jewelry.
Kym Gold-Lubell intends to give it to her with BabaKul, a new line based around star, moon, peace sign and flower icons that will hit stores in August. By mixing materials and focusing on textures, Gold-Lubell, along with partners D. Joseph Bortoli and Nubar Boyadjian, hopes to inject the formal fine jewelry market with casual designs for everyday wear.
"It was something that was a little more organic and laid-back because everything seemed a little too formal, too dressy," Bortoli said during a recent visit to BabaKul's airy loft on Abbott Kinney Boulevard, an eclectic thoroughfare in Venice, Calif., that features small eateries, bars, boutiques and modern work spaces. Gold-Lubell added, "You can wear our big cocktail rings with a pair of jeans. It can take you from day to night."
Leather, brushed sterling silver and matte gold, in 10-, 14- and 18-karat white, yellow, green and rose, are used extensively in BabaKul, as is amethyst and quartz in clear, smoky and lemon varieties. Cocktail rings, from $350 wholesale for sterling to $2,120 for 18-karat with amethyst, and corded charm bracelets, ranging from $75 wholesale for sterling silver to $190 wholesale for 10-karat yellow gold, have been popular purchases so far.
"I think our stuff is really price-conscious. We are mindful of that," said Gold-Lubell. "We are not trendy. I want people to have a piece that they are going to have forever."
Gold-Lubell noted stores have been keeping the prices down by picking up the silver items and the 14- or 10-karat offerings rather than the 18-karat pieces. In addition, BabaKul is able to rein in costs by making the jewelry at its own Burbank, Calif., production facility run by Boyadjian, who founded jewelry manufacturer NBN Creations in 1986.
Gold-Lubell estimates that BabaKul will generate at least $2 million in first-year retail sales at about 250 boutiques and a handful of luxury department stores such as Neiman Marcus and Barneys New York. She also intends to enter Japan and Canada, but does not foresee international business constituting more than 20 percent of sales in the first year. "My expectations usually come to fruition,'' she said. "If they don't, I make them."Gold-Lubell's confidence is based on more than 20 years in the fashion industry, most notably founding True Religion Apparel Inc. in 2002 with her former husband Jeff Lubell. Gold-Lubell resigned as the premium jeans brand's vice president of women's design in February upon splitting with Lubell, although she is still consulting for Vernon, Calif.-based True Religion.
And the confidence also stems from Gold-Lubell's personal knowledge of BabaKul's desired customer base, which she said runs from teenage girls to women in their 60s. "[The target customer] is the girl who will wear what I am wearing, who will go from Jimmy Choo to Balenciaga to True Religion to BabaKul. It is a head-to-toe girl," said Gold-Lubell.
She and Bortoli have known each other for about 25 years, before Bortoli established men's jewelry line Nagual around 13 years ago and helped redesign True Religion's hardware a year ago. After BabaKul gets off the ground, the two plan to unveil a revamped Nagual in January, the same month men's pieces will enter the BabaKul line. Eventually, men's items will make up about 15 percent of BabaKul and women's items will account for that same percentage of Nagual.
In its first year, Gold-Lubell said $200,000 will be spent to market BabaKul, including ads in lifestyle publications such as Malibu magazine. The advertising campaign was developed by branding firm TRUF and is centered on an illustrated bohemian woman with thick lips, a graphic scarf and layers of jewelry. "She is the girl we are designing for," said Gold-Lubell.
Derived from a French saying meaning "hippie," BabaKul may describe the jewelry line's look, but it doesn't describe Gold-Lubell's business savvy and drive to succeed. "I would not be doing something if I didn't believe in it 100 percent. There would be no reason for me to be doing something every day," she said. "This is just the beginning. This is nothing to where we are going to go."
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