LAS VEGAS — There was plenty of eye candy for buyers to parse through as they made their annual trek to the Couture jewelry show here, as business hummed along.
The trends were largely continuations of what’s already in the market: more color, as seen with the Gemfields x Muse collaborations, enamel at Retrouvaí and Sarah Hendler; lots of whimsy via charms and references to pop culture at vendors such as Foundrae and Alison Lou; Art Deco at Doryn Wallach Jewelry; tassels at Gumuchian; convertible pieces, and stackability.
Layering is helping drive the band business at Hearts on Fire as clients make purchases for a variety of occasions, driven by the self-purchase and stacking movements. Skinny bands are propelling the diamond business in ways the company has not seen, said Hearts on Fire president Caryl Capeci.
“I don’t know if it’s younger [clients driving the trend] as much as the price points because you can get beautiful, well-designed bands for $1,200, $1,500, and I think you have women who are buying those price points in their apparel, their handbags and their shoes. So it’s not a $5,000 piece of jewelry; it’s three [pieces]. And it all feels much more manageable and appropriate.”
Elsewhere on the show floor, Kering president for jewelry in the Americas Nathalie Diamantis went through key pieces from the Pomellato line, while also talking about the company’s whimsical Dodo brand in the midst of a re-branding. A relaunch for Dodo is expected by the end of the year in the U.S. Diamantis dubbed the repositioning “fun luxury and there’s no age to it.”
“There’s just massive potential we feel with Dodo,” she said. “It’s easy. Most people have to think a little bit more [with other purchases]. It’s a feel-good kind of brand.”
Pomellato is set to reopen a store in Beverly Hills sometime in August. The jewel box space will be infused with pops of red and Milanese-inspired designs.
“That for us will be fantastic to recapture our clientele,” Diamantis said.
Kwiat just last month opened its own store at the Wynn Las Vegas, neighboring brands such as Louis Vuitton in the hotel’s Wynn Plaza row of boutiques.
The retail business is changing, but it’s a shift that’s calling for the industry to go back to its roots, Kwiat and Fred Leighton chief executive officer Greg Kwiat said.
“Over the last few years, retail stores are looking to consolidate their commitments to their most important vendors and brands,” he said. “I think there’s a little bit more of a ‘less is more’ mentality because stores realize there’s only so many messages they can put in a store and only so many brands they can effectively sell. In our business and in any business, really you want to be important to the people you’re doing business with. So in a world where there’s a lot of choice, you have to figure out a way to differentiate.”
That could mean deeper buys, shop-in-shops or experiences, and that’s the conversation being had currently, he said.
Kwiat noted from the Couture show floor a positive environment and a general sense of optimism as the industry heads into fall and holiday. That’s in spite of what some have been calling a general fatigue in the trade-show calendar — no matter if it’s the jewelry business or apparel.
“It’s a really topical discussion in the industry right now because, in general, you step back and look at the calendar for the year, there are too many trade shows,” Kwiat said. “At the same time, trade shows for the jewelry industry do stimulate business in that they do bring people together to buy and sell. You get people in a room, and business will happen. So there’s definitely a place for trade shows.”
Still, they will have to move with the times.
“These days, you’ve got to work out how you can engage with your own client,” said Stephen Webster, founder and creative director of London-based Stephen Webster Ltd. “Now more than ever, with new brands coming up and everyone just trying to maintain their business, they have to work that out. You can do that through your retailers, but I think it’s probably the retailers that are embracing the change if you like. Some of the models, like the department store model in America, have changed beyond recognition. So we used to sit here and see one right after another of managers from all the different department stores. Now there’s a lot less of that.”
The next step for the trade shows could very well be something akin to the art world, Webster said, where everyone from galleries, private clients and other points of distribution all coexist.
Webster pointed to last year’s acquisition of exhibition center Olympia London by a group of investors led by Deutsche Finance and Yoo Capital as one point of possible inspiration for trade shows. The complex, built in Victorian Times, is now in the midst of a major renovation that aims to spin it into an arts and entertainment destination.
“This massive lump that was just about exhibitions will engage and you’ll have lots of reasons to go and the design is so beautiful,” Webster said. “I think that then becomes a gateway to the city. It’s not like we say that’s exactly what we’re going to do [with trade shows], but it’s a bit more exciting than just having to have your badge and wander around a trade show.”
In some cases, the industry is ripe for a major wave of change and it’s slowly happening with a new generation. Webster brought his daughter Amy onboard recently and will slowly give the 27-year-old more responsibility for what he said would be a category dedicated to the Millennial consumer.
“I want new ideas and new ways of looking at things that can come from her,” he said. “The next generation’s coming in and, really, not just taking over where you left off, but coming in with a new vision. I don’t mind a bit of a revolution. It won’t happen in one go, but I quite like the idea of another revolution within the family.”