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From Red Carpet to Show Floor

NEW YORK — Nicole Kidman is clearly fashion savvy, but when she put on a pair of oversized Fred Leighton chandelier earrings for the Golden Globes, she proved that she, too, knows how to shake up the jewelry industry.<br><br>At the JA New York...

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NEW YORK — Nicole Kidman is clearly fashion savvy, but when she put on a pair of oversized Fred Leighton chandelier earrings for the Golden Globes, she proved that she, too, knows how to shake up the jewelry industry.

At the JA New York Winter Show, which ended its three-day run at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here last Tuesday, retailers reacted to her red-carpet moment by scrambling to stock up on chandelier and other large-scale earrings in anticipation of blockbuster demand.

But it’s not just dangling earrings that keep fine jewelry designers and stores hopeful about the category, which has annual sales estimated at $41 billion in the U.S.

“In times like these, people buy jewelry because it’s more meaningful. You can hold onto it and pass it along, and it becomes more valuable,” said Candy Udell, co-president of Glen Cove, N.Y.-based London Jewelers, which has five units. “The business is holding up well considering the economy.”

Anne Storm, president of Peter Storm, added: “There are opportunities that weren’t there before, such as designing jewelry for women as self-purchase and jewelry that works 24 hours a day.”

In addition to chandelier earrings, store executives said there were several new trends to generate interest in the coming months, including:

Geometric pendants like bold circles, squares and pyramids.

Black leather mixed with diamonds, silver and gold.

Larger-scale pieces.

“We sold small-scale jewelry for a number of years,” said Jim Rosenheim, owner of fine jewelry and accessories store The Tiny Jewel Box in Washington, D.C. “Larger-scale pieces start to feel right now…the market is ready for a change.”

Carol Fasseas, owner of Livingston, N.J.-based Fasseas Jeweler, said: “I was looking for chandelier earrings because they were so prominent at the Golden Globes. I also feel that yellow gold is really making women feel very good right now. It’s a rich metal and makes you feel more luxurious than white because it’s warmer.”

At JA, designer Robert Lee Morris launched Geo Tile, an 18-karat yellow gold collection of cutout circles and squares for necklaces, dangling bracelets and earrings at $183 to $1,500 wholesale.

This story first appeared in the February 3, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“Graphic shapes are important,” said Morris. “By being constructed this way, we can offer gold jewelry in a lighter form, which also brings the price down.”

Executives also said they expect the abundance of colorful precious and semiprecious stones to help lift sales this year. Among the palette are pastel hues of pinks and reds, with stones like rose sapphires, rubies and tourmaline, and yellow and orange stones, such as citrines and citrus-colored sapphires.

David Yurman said: “The top focus is color. We are playing with pastels in pinks and blues. Some are hot, some are muted and we’re mixing them with accents of diamonds.”

Rosenheim at The Tiny Jewel Box praised Laura Gibson’s use of colored precious and semiprecious stones.

“[Gibson] has a wonderful grasp of putting colors together, it’s so unexpected,” he said. “It’s eye candy…a classic self-purchase item for women.”

Since many retailers are still analyzing their inventory levels after the holiday season, several came to JA to get a glimpse of new trends and replenish their assortment of traditional bestsellers.

“Because the economy is uncertain and there is a threat of war, people are more interested in return on investment, such as diamond studs, and bridal jewelry, which is recession-proof,” said John Chalson, who handles marketing and sales for Chris Correia.

Janice Winter, president at Judith Ripka, said: “Buyers are more cautious…in terms of merchandising their stores. They’re going more narrow and deep. In some cases, they are trying to narrow their assortment in a number of designers.”

Versatility and items that can be worn from day into night continue to be important themes with several vendors. Leslie Greene, for instance, presented 18-karat white gold and diamond chandelier drop earrings, which detach into a pendant.

“Women love it when something can be something else,” she added.

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