YURMAN’S SLICE OF AMERICANA

Byline: Lisa Lockwood

NEW YORK — David Yurman, American icon?
The luxury jewelry firm, which already generates between $450 million and $500 million in retail sales, has in place a major marketing initiative it hopes will propel it into the consciousness of an even broader national audience.
Armed with a $10 million advertising budget this year — up from $6.5 million a year ago — Yurman will launch its first image campaign in May. For the past 14 years, the company has run still-life shots of its jewelry to convey its advertising message, but the company decided it was time for a change.
“We felt we needed it,” said David Yurman, chief executive officer and designer. “I was getting tired of seeing product, product, product. Our customers are collectors. It’s almost like a cult. They’re adding to their collections. They have 10 to 20 pieces and buy two to three new pieces a year.”
Yurman and his wife, Sybil, who is president and chief marketing officer, have presided over their jewelry business for the past 21 years. About seven months ago, the Yurmans hired Lipman Richmond Greene, the New York ad agency best known for its work for Burberry, Furla and Bacara Resort & Spa, to create an image campaign.
“We thought the product was king, but now it’s the spirit of the business [we wanted to convey]. We spoke to a lot of people and his [David Lipman, the agency’s chairman] name came up the most,” said Yurman.
After several dinners and meetings with him, the Yurmans realized they had found their guy.
“One of the things I liked about David was he was so impassioned about the details. He’s like a photographer. He knows all that and has an incredible taste level,” said David Yurman, himself a former sculptor. Sybil Yurman was previously a painter.
The Yurmans launched their business in 1980 with a $500 loan from the Hebrew Free Loan Society. Not having enough money to produce the jewelry, they asked stores, such as Saks Fifth Avenue, to pay for their orders as they placed them. Today, David Yurman is the number-one accessories resource at Neiman Marcus, and, last Christmas, was the best-selling resource in the entire specialty store chain. Yurman’s flagship store here, which opened in December, 1999, is running 64 percent ahead of last year.
“Nothing was broken,” said Sybil Yurman. “We didn’t have to fix anything; it’s just an evolution. We needed someone who understood our company. We wanted to show the range and the spirit of the customers who wore our products.”
For the image campaign, they asked themselves, “How do we convey the soul of what we do without showing more product?” said David Yurman.
As the merchandise became more diversified over the last few years, Sybil Yurman said it became a challenge to decide which items to advertise. “Should we show a product for a young woman, or a diamond piece for a professional customer, or a fun, kooky piece? The customers were so varied. We go from a 13-year-old girl’s gift to a necklace for a 75-year-old grandmother to something for Elizabeth Taylor.”
“Our core business is the entire family,” added her husband, who noted that, on a typical Saturday, entire families are lined up at the counter in their flagship here, at 729 Madison Avenue, purchasing jewelry, which ranges from $250 for small, sterling silver, stackable rings up to $25,000 for diamonds and 18-karat gold pieces, with a few special items retailing for $55,000.
Lipman hired Peter Lindbergh, well known for his black and white photography, to shoot the campaign in St. Barts. Since their jewelry is often given as gifts, they came up with the theme “Celebration.” The crew created a beach party with a cast of characters ranging from Amber Valletta (in her first ad campaign since having a baby) to Lucie de la Falaise and Patti Hansen. In addition, the campaign features several children and a dog who wandered on to the set, as well as Valletta’s fiance, Chip, and their baby.
“Amber’s by far the star. There are little surprise moments, which widen what the brand represents,” said Lipman, in a separate interview. The ads were styled by Brana Wolf, with art direction by Amir Zia.
“The idea of the campaign is glamorous authenticity, showing her [Valletta’s] freckles. It’s clean and poignant. The first wave of images is very pure.”
Valletta is eating a watermelon, wearing sterling silver and 14-karat gold rings; hugging her fiance, also wearing rings, and playfully wrapping a sterling silver and 18-karat gold and pearl necklace around her head. In another shot, a baby sucks on a sterling silver and 18-karat gold lariat.
“What I love about this campaign is there are real life moments, not fashion moments. Peter [Lindbergh] just got it,” said David Yurman.
According to Lipman, “What the Yurmans wanted me to do is to position them as a brand, not a lot of product. It’s a slice of Americana, the good life and unrehearsed. The jewelry is very accessible and very real. We’re trying to build an American icon brand.”
The company also has a new logo, designed by Fabien Baron, and plans to re-design everything from the shopping bags to the store decor to the firm’s stationery over the next few years.
The ad campaign will break in May in consumer magazines. Multiple page spreads will run in Vogue, W, and Vanity Fair, and ads will also appear in such magazines as GQ, V, Conde Nast Traveler, Departures, Talk, Harper’s Bazaar and the New York Times Magazine.
When asked if this was a one-time effort to become a big-name brand, or if he plans to keep upping the ante, Yurman replied, “I can’t wait to go on the next shoot.”