LONDON — Lockdown measures might have rendered many trends irrelevant, but it would be foolish to think that this is the end of them all together.
Instead they, unsurprisingly, shifted toward loungewear and statement jewelry, too, used to make the endless array of Pangaia tracksuits or basic T-shirts taking over wardrobes around the world, a little more elevated.
The chain necklace, in particular, has been emerging as the hero piece of the season, keeping jewelry labels going during this time of store closures and decreased consumer appetite.
As for the main instigators of the chain necklace’s rise in demand? There was the obvious lifestyle shifts that called for quick and easy ways to look put together on video calls, usual suspects like Instagram — and the hit TV series “Normal People.”
According to the data platform Lyst, searches for gold chain necklaces have been increasing 17 percent week-on-week, a spike linked to Instagram’s weekly #DressUpFriday challenges, encouraging users to publish images of themselves wearing something other than their track suits.
The launch of “Normal People” last month, where lead actor Paul Mescal is seen wearing a silver chain throughout the the series, led to searches for chain necklaces spiking 23 percent week-on-week.
According to Lyst, within 24 hours of the show’s popular debut, the terms “silver” and “chain necklace” became the most commonly used search terms for men’s jewelry, while overall searches for men’s chains went up 16 percent.
Brands and retailers have been reaping the rewards ever since, as the chain necklace seems to be ticking many boxes that are relevant to consumers’ needs at the moment: It comes in an array of price points, encourages creativity by way of layering, and can carry personal symbolisms and meaning.
On Net-a-porter, there was a 131 percent increase in demand for chain necklaces in early March and the style’s popularity hasn’t waned since, according to the retailer’s global buying director Elizabeth von der Goltz.
Von der Goltz added that the site covers the trend across more affordable fashion jewelry options from the likes of Laura Lombardi, Bottega Veneta or Loren Stewart to higher-priced fine jewelry chains by the likes of Foundrae, which also offers the option to add symbolic charms to its chains.
“People are not afraid to layer, and chains are the perfect way to do so. Foundrae is a brand that resonates with personal meanings and we have seen a big trend in sales for anything with symbolic motifs these past few months. Jewelry is seen as something with an emotional connection, and Foundrae’s necklaces are all about peace, wholeness, calm and strength, which is particularly poignant during this time,” von der Goltz said.
Alighieri’s Rosh Mahtani, who always had a flair for chunky layers of necklaces imbued with meaning, has also been seeing sales for her chokers particularly increasing on the label’s web site.
“[The spike] comes from a combination of things: The desire to express your personality on a Zoom call is definitely part of it. More than that, it’s become a strange thing getting ready in the morning, so people want additions to their casual wardrobe that are easy and make them feel special, in the midst of days that can feel repetitive. The choker is the ultimate answer to this, over a comfy knit, with a white T-shirt or shirtdress,” said Mahtani, pointing to the stories and spiritual messages attached to some of the label’s pieces, to ground the wearer.
One gold chain features three spherical castings for balance, while another chunkier version is made up of textured intertwined links symbolizing the importance of human connection.
“I love wearing them layered one on top of each other, as armour,” the designer said.
Fellow jeweler Verda Alaton, who is behind the Istanbul-based label Tohum, saw a similar shift with demand moving away from the brand’s popular shell collections and toward two particular chain necklace styles: the “Palu,” which features chunky, interconnected chains, and the “Lumia,” which offers a more dainty iteration to the trend.
Alaton has also been updating the “Lumia” by adding earthy elements like crystals or glass hearts to symbolize unity, to good effect: 70 percent of the label’s online sales during the pandemic were generated from the “Lumia” range.
“Upper body exposure has become more and more important; this is mostly how we share our presence these days. So when we do, we want to make the most of it, share our colors and our desire to continue with a positive spirit,” Alaton added.
The trend has been relevant across genders and price points, too.
Mytheresa’s fashion buying director Tiffany Hsu said prices for the style can range between 800 euros and 3,000 euros, with relevant brands ranging as far as big luxury names like Bottega Veneta to niche ones like Tilly Sveaas and Elhanati.
Patcharapiva, an up-and-coming fine jewelry label based in Bangkok, has seen the popularity of its chunky chains, whose prices range from 6,000 to 29,000 pounds, sustain throughout the pandemic as customers are looking for easy solutions to look put together on video calls.
“I recommend that we must always feel confident, but also discreet and a chain necklace is a very good choice. I can recognize that it is a current trend and it is also one of my signature items that is a bestseller every season, even now, without exception,” the designer said.
For a more accessibly priced label like the buzzy direct-to-consumer brand Missoma, the trend has been gathering steam at a larger scale: The label launched a “Chains” campaign a month into lockdown, seeing sales increase 300 percent for the category and plenty of celebrity support.
Gigi Hadid has been seen wearing the label’s “Axiom” chain for three months straight while the rise in popularity of “Normal People” has been turning men to Missoma necklaces, too, according to the label’s founder Marisa Hordern.
“Missoma is synonymous with layering, and a year ago we started building out a much deeper and broader offering of chains, to ensure there was something for every woman and style,” said Hordern, also pointing to the brand’s “sweet spot” pricing, which ranges from 40 to 375 pounds. “It’s about mixing quality with design so our pieces are affordable enough to reach a wider audience but luxurious to wear.”
Sweet spot price points also make for easier purchasing decisions and give customers bigger room to buy more and experiment with layering, which fashion fans seem to be finding some sort of solace in while in lockdown.
“These [messy layers of chains] are the ultimate expression of creative freedom, which I think is really what we are all striving for and leaning on during lockdown. To be able to play with accessories gives a bit of joy in your morning style,” Hordern added.