In the foyer floor of the new Monica Rich Kosann boutique in Los Angeles, the message “Stories Told Here” is embedded in brass lettering.
“It’s the first touch point that something personal is happening,” said Monica Rich Kosann, during an interview about the shop. “I’ve been designing fine jewelry for 13 years. With everything we sell, it’s always about telling a story.”
The Monica Rich Kosann shop sells lockets, rings, bracelets, necklaces, charms, often with sentimental inscriptions, and some home and gift products. The designer views jewelry as “storytelling” keepsakes.
The L.A. location, opened Tuesday in the newly overhauled Westfield Century City mall, is the jewelry brand’s first shop on the West Coast, and only its second in operation. The retail strategy kicked off a year ago with an opening in The Shops at Columbus Circle in Manhattan.
For her 485-square-foot L.A. boutique, Kosann has managed to incorporate an array of experiences that generally can’t be found in jewelry stores. “It’s about personalization, bespoke, telling your story,” the designer said.
There’s a “locket bar” with a patent-pending, automated process for quickly reproducing a photo or a favorite quote to put in a locket, to make it personal. All it takes is sending a picture to an associate, an app and technology that properly prints, sizes and crops the photo or quotation to fit the locket.
The Monica Rich Kosann shop also has a “create your own” charm necklace, poesy necklace and charm bracelet area; four tablets to access styling guides and the brand’s web site, and an overall interior design that reduces the “friction” typically associated with shopping. Seventy percent of the displays are at eye level for a woman of average height, five-foot four or five inches tall. There are no counters — just glass displays emanating off the walls. “We don’t want anything to be between our associates and our customers. Our jewelry is really personal,” Kosann said.
In the middle of the floor is an 11-foot collage of Kosann’s photographs of celebrities, children and families. She’s been a black-and-white photographer for longer than she’s been a jewelry designer. One of the window displays created by Spaeth, a visual merchandising firm known for holiday window presentations, depicts the process for creating the locket photos.
Kosann also enlisted the Mapos design firm to help create the shop. “We approached the store design like book editors, carefully arranging objects in glass vitrines and on tackable panels, and photography work on a clean white backdrop, much like laying out a page in two dimensions,” said Caleb Mulvena, principal of Mapos. “We created hierarchy and rhythm across the page to tell her story in a compelling way. This becomes an integral part of the experience of the store. We chose an exaggerated corduroy texture on the walls, which was reminiscent of a simple, textured Strathmore paper as a backdrop to this collage.”
“It’s very unusual for a fine jewelry firm to create an environment for experiences,” said Rod Kosann, Monica’s husband and partner in the firm. “Creating more in-store experiences gives customers more reasons to come.”
When the couple describes their merchandise as accessible, they don’t just mean within easy reach or sight. “Our merchandise mix is all under $6,000 or $7,000 and starts at $70. It’s very accessible,” Monica said.
She’s a firm believer in mixing “the high and the low,” meaning how luxury can be styled with more affordable fashion. And she’s a case in point, wearing a Yves Saint Laurent blouse with Zara jeans during the interview, and she’s accessorized with a $295 sterling silver “never fear” bracelet and a $3,200 mask ring with pave diamonds (both her collection) along with a Cartier watch. Her higher-priced luxury jewelry pieces, sometimes in the five-figure range, are reserved for the web site and for wholesale accounts which include Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, London Jewelers, Mitchells and Borsheims. Sources have estimated the business at exceeding $20 million in volume.
For their third store, the Kosanns are considering lower Manhattan, and possibly other locations. The shop in Manhattan, a polished stainless steel-framed glass box, 10 feet high, with 200 square feet of selling space and doors that swing open for additional display, is generating in excess of $4,000 in sales per square foot, according to Rod Kosann. “We feel it’s a good indication of where we can ultimately bring our L.A. store to,” he said.
The Century City boutique is near Zara, an Amazon store and a Tesla showroom. “Westfield has done a good job of bringing in a multitude of experiences and creating a fantastic place for people to get together,” Rod Kosann said. “There’s fitness, amazing restaurants, movies, an amphitheater, where — when there are no productions going on — it’s a great place for people to mingle. Century City seemed like a really fun place for us to open our Los Angeles store. It’s very experiential,” and just the way the Kosanns wanted their store to be.