There was an air of cautious excitement at this year’s Couture show, with designers, buyers and executives descending on Las Vegas, hopeful about meeting in person, once again.
“I find it extremely motivating,” explained Pomellato chief executive officer of the Americas Nathalie Diamantis. “And I think it’s irreplaceable. It’s the only trade show we do per year, it’s super important to see what our competitors — who are our friends — are doing, how great they look and what’s new for everyone.”
Due to the global pandemic, the 2020 edition had to be scrapped, but the show persevered, with buyers buzzing about all the offerings from this year’s crop of designers — who, like the rest of the world, had a lot of time to get creative during lockdowns.
The result saw many exhibitors choosing to expand collections with new iterations of pieces the consumer is familiar with, although that is not to say there wasn’t overall newness. Many brands zeroed in on color, creating joyful pieces and, as is typical for Couture, brought out their big guns, showing one-of-a-kind pieces meant to dazzle both buyers and a modern customer who buys for herself and wears pieces every day.
“I wanted to show up for the couture show because I know I owe them so much in my career,” explained Los Angeles-based Anita Ko. “When I started couture eight years ago, I was the new designer who had no idea what to do. The show did a lot for me, it really helped me become who I am.”
“There are a lot of retailers that I know now, that I would never have gotten if it wasn’t for showing here in the early days,” Ko continued.
Diamonds for day to night are central to the Ko brand DNA, and she continues to deliver new iterations on her core styles. “I wanted to kind of move forward into something that a girl could feel comfortable with in a T-shirt and jeans or also a beautiful spaghetti-strap dress,” she said.
One designer diving into color: Valerie Messika, whose Lucky Move collection — which celebrates luck with a talisman style medallions — was introduced just before the onset of the pandemic. Couture saw the gold and diamond medallions reimagined with ornamental stones, including malachite, lapis lazuli, mother-of-pearl in shades of white, gray and pink, turquoise and more.
“Each color stone has its own mantra and power, encouraging and empowering women to be free, be unique, be authentic and be enigmatic,” Messika explained.
The sentimental nature of jewelry, an idea that has taken on a heightened meaning since the early days of COVID-19, was seen throughout the jewelry and timepiece show, with just about every designer speaking about the power of a self-purchasing customer.
“The relationships that one has with jewelry are deeply intimate,” Messika said. The Paris-based brand has had an enviably busy year: its first U.S. store opened in Los Angeles just before the pandemic and at the end of 2020, it opened a third store at New York’s Hudson Yards.
“These projects were all in the pipeline prior to the pandemic, and we made a choice to maintain our planning and move forward,” she said. “Whilst it was challenging to open stores remotely, it is thanks to the mobilization of my incredible teams that allowed us to successfully forge forward in taking this kind of chance.”
Another success has been the unveiling of the Messika by Kate Moss high jewelry collection, which soon will unveil its second offering. “Building around a vast range of colors, Kate Moss and I concepted a second collection of 36 bold and colorful jewels,” she said of the collection which features malachite, white mother-of-pearl, turquoise and onyx.
The two creatives are planning a runway show, too: “To concept a real live runway experience with the codes of fashion combined with Messika style sensibilities and exceptional pieces from my high jewelry collection is truly a dream soon turned reality,” the designer said.
At Marco Bicego, layering pieces, with a mix of new pendants that can be mixed and matched with already established collections, were popular with buyers. The pandemic gave the designer time to go wild in terms of creating new designs, and most buyers in the Bicego salon had pre-bought, using the in-person event to get eyes on their buy and Bicego’s one-of-a-kind pieces.
Sydney Evan designer Rosanne Karmes was in a celebratory mood, marking 20 years in business. Karmes, who is known for her evil-eye pieces and is unabashedly superstitious, supersized her icons —humming birds, evil eyes, hamsas — to create a most outrageous charm necklace.
“Twenty to thirty years ago, no one was doing gold and diamond jewelry that is made fine, mixed with fashion,” Karmes said, speaking on her early work. “I wanted something that is happy. It really started with me thinking about what a woman wants…without thinking they need a guy to buy it!” she said with a laugh.
Colorful charms with personal meaning are Karmes bread and butter, and the brand had asymmetric earrings, coins, medallions, updates to her pave links and a cocktail collection on display.
Industry stalwart Stephan Webster jokingly called his pieces “gem-tastic,” but he was very serious when speaking to his one-of-a-kind customer. “Even if could remake one of my one-of-a-kind pieces, I don’t want to. I think that lady who trusted me for $12,000 beautiful piece has to be able to stand alone. It’s powerful,” he said.
One-of-a-kind and high jewelry are core to the Pomellato brand in the U.S. market, said Diamantis. ”In the U.S., we really understand who our demographic is. We have a high net worth to ultra-high-net-worth demographic. I would say self-purchasing women who really mostly can buy whatever they want.”
She continued that, “They don’t want to put something in the safe. They want to wear it all the time.”
The Milanese jeweler’s Nudo collection focuses on colored gemstones with blue and green, which are always popular colors for them. Additionally, the brand is celebrating 20 years by creating Nudo pieces using chocolate brown gemstones, which Diamantis called “innovative, because moonstone is opaque. Generally, you facet translucent stuff, but if you facet an opaque stone, it’s going to take on a different personality,” she explained. “So, there’s a lot of variation. It’s also very grounding.”
One of the busiest areas of the show is always the Design Atelier, where a mix of emerging brands are stationed highlighting their arrival to the tight-knit jewelry community.
“While Stephanie and I have both been to Couture in the past for other companies we have worked for, it was such a thrill to be in the Design Atelier exhibiting our own collection for the first time,“ said Water’s Faith designer Mollie Good, an industry vet who is working alongside the brand’s cofounder Stephanie Abramow. The duo’s brand of chain and diamond layer pieces were popular among buyers.
Creative director of Milamore, George Root said as a first-timer he had no idea what to expect from the show. “I enjoyed the intimacy and hyper focused communication I had with press, retailers and even meeting other young designers,” Root said. “I really appreciate the welcome and reception I have been given to the Couture community.”
“As a first time member of the Design Atelier at Couture, I could not be more elated with the warm welcome and fabulous experience,” said Tara Maria Famiglietti, a first time attendee and DA member with her brand Ondyn.
Famiglietti also took home the Couture award for Diamonds Under $20K for her Eminence earrings. “The feedback we received was exciting and inspiring from both retailers and editors. I think the enthusiastic response to our fluid articulated movement and the appreciation for the thought and design ethos infused into each piece was the most thrilling to hear,” the designer said.
Another DA designer, Renna’s Renna Brown-Taher, who was to make her debut in 2020, was eager to be able to show the couture crowd her designs. “Our booth was packed from start to finish each day,“ she said. ”Retailers were coming up without appointments, clamoring to find an opening to see our collection. My team has been working so hard behind the scenes to prepare for the show and it’s incredibly rewarding for all of us to see such strong orders coming in all across the country.”
The brand is officially launching this holiday at new doors in Puerto Rico, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, Washington and Colorado, along with a number of online platforms. “A few retailers even announced our partnerships on Instagram while at my booth during the show, which made things feel very real because it was hard to believe I wasn’t dreaming at first,” Brown-Taher said.
“We couldn’t be more grateful for the retailers that attended Couture this year even under questionable circumstances,” said Ann Korman, designer of Ark Fine Jewelry and a DA first-timer. “It was both relieving and rewarding to have so many people approach our booth during the show. We were able to connect with both existing and new retailers, many of which were seeing our new collections in-person for the first time. The feedback we received will be so helpful in the development and growth of our brand.”