When Jeweller investigated the topic of trend forecasting last year in an article titled, Spotting the next best thing, one point was clear: predicting what’s hot in fashion is far from simple.
This is because trends start as reflections of broader cultural happenings. Trends often stem from street level rather than from boardrooms, which means the next ‘it’ thing is emerging right before our eyes and suppliers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers are all looking for it.
It’s not enough just to identify what’s hot – those who react the fastest, those who can provide options almost instantaneously, will be the ones who benefit the most. Yet reacting the fastest is no easy feat in the current landscape where everyone and everything is connected. Consumers have an all-access pass to what local and international trendsetters are wearing and any new developments spread like wildfire.
In fact, retailers and consumers are now far more discerning about their demands and this means suppliers are no longer necessarily the gatekeepers of what is and isn’t trendy.
The category sure is complex; however, never fear because the local jewellery industry is adapting to ensure current offerings are anything but ‘last season’.
Najo managing director Jo Tory says today’s immediacy of information is a benefit for consumers who no longer have to wait for new trends to trickle down from the US and Europe.
“The Australian market was always considered to lag a year or two behind that of Europe or the US,” she says. “That is no longer the case.”
Tory founded her business 30 years ago and explains how many of the barriers to new global fashion trends have today broken down.
“We are now very much a global village and we can all see what our global neighbours are wearing from minute to minute via social media. This means wholesalers and retailers need to keep their offerings fresh and relevant,” she advises, adding that the key to success is flexibility.
“At Najo, we work several collections ahead – 12 to 18 months – in our design and development; however, we also allow ourselves the flexibility to expedite particular styles if we feel they need to get to market sooner to take advantage of fashion.”
Helen Martin, Australian and New Zealand brand and sales manager for Danish brand Julie Sandlau, says gaining suggestions from retailers is an important part of product development.
“There is always plenty of input and feedback from retailers on the collections and pieces as well as requests for certain colours or variations to designs,” she explains. “This feedback is brilliant and always taken into account. I don’t think you can be a global brand and not take the time to understand the needs and trends in each of your different markets.”
Martin adds that the Australian market favours coloured gemstone-set pieces and collections: “I can’t say for sure if we mimic the tastes of Europe as the brand is more established over there but colour is what sells really well here.”
Retailer input also helps to inform the direction of designs released by Stones and Silver, according to managing director Cheryle Roberts.
“At Stones and Silver we have always encouraged and listened to our clients in relation to their ideas, what’s on-trend and upcoming fashion,” Roberts says. “After all, they are the ones out there at the frontline, receiving requests and feedback from the end-buyer.”
Consumers are also now much more informed and this definitely affects design direction.
“There is still a huge demand from retailers relying on us for new designs, popular lines and on-trend pieces,” Roberts continues, “However, I think there may have been a slight increase in the number of retailers/consumers who know what they want.”
When asked about meeting demands within the fashion jewellery category, Miglio Designer Jewellery CEO Jenny Miller stresses the importance of introducing pieces on an almost constant basis.
“The old way of brands dumping seasonal collections gives your customer little reason to pop into your store regularly – we don’t want that,” Miller says.
In addition to a core range of ‘best sellers’ that are available all year, Miller explains that a steady stream of about 10 to 12 new items each month are released with an accompanying social media campaign.
“This keeps the brand fresh, ensuring interest that translates into more customers in store and more robust sales,” she says, adding, “The ability to deliver almost immediately is exactly what stores demand from us. We made sure that we got our logistics right in Australia long before we started selling to our stores. Fast-moving jewellery rather than heavy investment; this is what stores need and what Miglio delivers.”
Like many business strategies, what works for one operation doesn’t necessarily work for all.
Tory says that Najo has two main collection releases each year – autumn/winter in February and spring/summer in July – and also maintains a collection of ‘core’ ranges. She states that ‘small injection’ collections are occasionally developed prior to important retail periods like Christmas or Valentine’s Day but still considers the sweet spot to be biannual releases.
“We have in the past experimented with smaller, more frequent injections rather than two main collections per year but have found our current system is more successful,” Tory explains.
Releasing ranges twice a year – typically for autumn/winter and spring/summer – is still common practice for many jewellery suppliers; however, several are keen to point out that new pieces are frequently added to existing collections, a move intended to help retailers keep up with the fast-paced nature of trends and current consumer expectations.
The Julie Sandlau range, for example, comprises 18 collections, with two to three new season collections added annually. In addition to this, Martin explains that pieces are added to, or retired from, existing collections throughout the year.
Roberts says the team at Stones and Silver are “constantly releasing new products and making additions to ranges and collections”.
Ensuring consumers have regular access to fresh product is also important for US brand Alex and Ani, which taps into the ever-expanding collectible charm bangle trend.
“We have new introductions every season where we add a number of collections, either introducing new symbols or an injection of colour and texture from [collection] Vintage 66,” Karin Adcock, founder of Alex and Ani distributor House of Brands, explains.
Meanwhile, Pastiche director Amy Bradley finds that quantity and frequency aren’t always the best secret weapons for serving the local market.
“Currently we have two product launches a year: spring/summer (around March) and autumn/winter (around August). This is in keeping with the previous Pastiche release schedule,” she states.
Bradley and her husband, Chris, purchased the now 30-year-old Australian jewellery business from founders Barbara and Phillip Hastings in 2015. Explaining the changes implemented following their acquisition, Bradley says, “Effectively our collections are now smaller and have a clearer vision. Changing the size of the range allows us to design the majority of the pieces in-house and gives us the time to make sure every piece is perfect.”
In addition to much of the range being designed in-house, a key adjustment to Pastiche’s design process is a stronger direction towards contemporary-edge pieces with clean lines and natural gemstones.
Commenting on the major jewellery trends for Pastiche this season, Bradley says, “We are focusing on natural stones in our new range and this has been very well received with rose quartz and howlite the newest stand-outs.
“Rose gold and two-tone pieces have strong appeal as well as geometric patterns and simplified designs.”
Tory also points to ‘two-tone’ as being one of Najo’s signature looks: “We’ve had great success with our two-tone collections, particularly rose gold and silver, and continue that trend in our La Luna collection.”
As reported in Jeweller’s February 2016 issue, pearl jewellery is having a fashion moment, making appearances everywhere from the runways of large fashion houses and fashion-based magazines through to the streets. It’s a trend that Tory is leveraging.
“We predicted last year that pearls would sell well in 2016 and we have been correct,” she says. “We’re having great success with the contemporary, fashionable pearl styles we’ve designed for our La Luna collection.”
Tory adds that the inspiration for the La Luna collection comes from the luminous tones cast by the moonlight, providing the perfect palette for the winter months.
Miller also nominates pearls as the main jewellery trend right now for Miglio: “This season is all about pearls – modern, cool and timeless. An all-time favourite treasured by women for their lustre and luminosity.”
Like Najo, one of Julie Sandlau’s latest collections seeks inspiration from the sky, specifically the blue and green hues of the renowned northern lights. “The latest Aurora collection is inspired by the world’s magnetic powers, when the northern lights illuminate a dark sky, and magical stunning colour is set in motion,” an official marketing statement reads.
Martin adds that lots of colour and sharp lines – best depicted in the Linea collection – are defining traits for the brand’s jewellery offerings this season.
A less-is-more jewellery aesthetic has permeated the fashion scene for a few years now and it’s something that continues to prove popular for Stones and Silver.
“The major jewellery trends coming through this season for Stones and Silver are fine necklets and rings, both in 925 sterling silver and in rose gold 3 and 4-micron plate, as well as in a combination of both,” Roberts explains. “Fine jewellery is still ever so popular and tends to fit in with most retailers of jewellery.”
For the cutting-edge fashionistas, she notes that another big trend is mismatched earrings. The look has been circling fashion runways and red carpets for several seasons and Roberts says the supplier is zeroing in.
“A lot of our focus this season is on having an extensive range of earrings, which complement the asymmetrical look of being mismatched,” she says, adding that ear cuffs and midi rings – designed to be worn between the finger’s tip and first knuckle – are also proving popular.
It appears that being ‘on-trend’ isn’t the only motivating factor for purchasers of fashion jewellery.
“Current fashion trends are not a major driver of inspiration for the Alex and Ani brand. Instead, we focus on creating jewellery that adds meaning and positive energy to the wearer,” Adcock explains. “We’re not seeing the demand for on-trend pieces but for meaningful products that have been created with a purpose. Consumers inundated with too much choice are also gravitating towards products that not only make them feel good but also hold a deeper, personal meaning.”
Fashion is often classified as fickle and there’s no denying that in today’s market, appeasing the demands of trend-focused consumers is increasingly complex.
Gone are the days when Australia and New Zealand were so far removed from the rest of the world that people were content to follow trends six months behind the northern hemisphere. The good news is that it appears this hasn’t gone unnoticed by local suppliers who also recognise the importance of collaborating with retailers and end-consumers.
At the risk of defying stereotypes, it seems like fashion exists in a new age where collaboration is in and ostracism is out.
|FASHION FORECAST LOOKING COOL|
While it’s tempting to enter hibernation during autumn and winter, the latest jewellery trends should have consumers wanting to be out and about. Suppliers were asked to weigh in on the items they expect to turn heads in the comings months and the results are anything but dull.
“As each piece of Alex and Ani jewellery is designed to positively empower the wearer and reflect their unique qualities, customers decide what personally resonates with them. However, retailers’ early responses show that people are gravitating towards pieces featuring the path of life symbol from the Path of Symbols collection.” – Karin Adcock
“This is hard to narrow down but the Prime earrings (pictured) just don’t seem to leave our #1 spot and the latest Aurora earrings are also proving to be winning favour with their tear drop design and magical green and blue tones.” – Helen Martin
“Luscious pearls are always very popular with Miglio fans. Our Bohemian-Luxe necklace is sure to be a best-seller this season ... especially when paired with any of our stunning pearl pendants.” – Jenny Miller
“The Desert Dreamer set [ring, earrings, necklaces, cuff] is proving amazingly popular. It combines the popularity of pearls with contemporary, fashionable design and an affordable price.” – Jo Tory
“Our feature piece this season is undoubtedly the Serendipity necklace in oxidised silver and turquoise. This is a timeless piece that makes a statement and is loved by all.” – Amy Bradley
“The #1 item people will be asking for is very hard to pick as we have a diverse range. However, if I had to choose one, it would be the sterling silver and rose gold-plated Euro Ball earrings. These have already proven to be extremely popular over the past few months, and we are having trouble keeping enough stock to fill our current orders!” – Cheryle Roberts