Overseas trends set to impact Australia
By Stuart Braun
As global luxury brands take a bigger chunk of the market, it’s time for local retailers and suppliers to consider an international perspective. STUART BRAUN investigates.
The Australian jewellery market has traditionally kept its distance from the outside world. Geographically cloistered, Australian jewellers are accused of shying from innovation, remaining content with tried, tested and somewhat conservative retail lines.
But in today’s globalised market, where jewellery has become part of a dynamic, internationalised fashion identity, provincialism might prove folly in the long-term. Today, local consumers are becoming more outward looking, demanding that Australian jewellery stays relevant and reflective of the latest overseas trends, just like the fashion industry does.
Savvy suppliers are echoing these sentiments, tying their designs to international celebrities and opening stores in exotic locations in a bid to put Australian design on the map.
Emblematic of the kind of success that can be generated through a global perspective was the recent coup by A-list jeweller Stefano Canturi to hook his Cubism diamond cuff bracelet over the wrist of Kristin Davis, Charlotte of TV’s smash sitcom Sex & The City, when she turned up at a function in Sydney.
As reported in Australian Vogue, Davis’ eye-catching statement piece went public the same day Canturi’s new jewellery salon opened on New York’s Upper East Side. Indeed, Canturi, designer for Cartier and a long list of private clientele that includes Nicole Kidman and Oprah, is showing how Australian jewellers can join the world stage, along with Georg Jensen, Makers Mark, Jan Logan and others.
Nicola Cerrone, from Sydney-based House of Cerrone jewellers, says global branding in magazines and throughout the media increasingly influences the desires of a trend-conscious buying public, and is adamant that “overseas jewellery trends do have an influence on Australia’s jewellery market.” Exporting to Asia, Italy and America, Cerrone has won numerous international design awards and is committed to a global perspective.
“Consumers are now savvier, more closely following the media and fashion; they want more information, education and insights,” he says.
Diamond supremo John Calleija agrees: “I think it’s important to always be ahead of the times. I have stayed with my own style and strategy of good quality jewellery and bespoke designs that are always relevant and on trend.”
Vibeke Mignard, the Australian representative for Scandinavian luxury jewellery house Ole Lynggaard Copenhagen, says Australian trends are increasingly inspired from overseas: “We see more and more stylists and journalists from Australia at the Copenhagen fashion fairs, as it’s a general perception that many Scandinavian designers, and Scandinavians in general, are trendsetters.”
The increased influence of designer and luxury brands on the Australian market has made it more accountable to international jewellery trends.
Indeed, luxury is becoming a cornerstone of the local industry as mass-market retailers are out-competed on price. In its jewellery trend analysis for 2010 and beyond, global business trend forecaster Datamonitor predicts that the luxury segment will outperform the mass market in the coming years, increasing its share from 20 to 30 per cent as developing markets become more enamoured by brands. Meanwhile, cautions the report, “mass-market retailers will struggle with rising commodity prices and lower demand, squeezing their margins.”
The fix? Retailers need to differentiate themselves from competitors with branded, “exclusive” product that communicates an international perspective.
Bijoux by Ian Sharp – retailer
“The global ‘expensive’ trends with a focus on quality jewels have corned the fashion market,” Mignard says. “This is very much reflected in the international high fashion magazines, such as Marie Claire, Vogue and ELLE, where luxury jewellery takes more space.”
But do jewellers really need to look offshore for inspiration? Seema Dugal, publicist for hip fashion jewellery/accessory brand Karen Walker, is adamant that Walker’s range is not inspired by anyone but herself: “We don’t look to follow international trends. Our focus is about bringing together the tradition of fine jewellery and infusing it with whimsy. It’s about bringing luxury into everyday.”
This focus on exclusivity and “creativity” is indeed the secret to developing a winning international brand. Everyone wants to be different – together! As Dugal herself acknowledges, Karen Walker is ultimately “a trend-setting brand and shows every season at New York fashion week along with the most important designers in the world”.
For this, the brand gets lots of time in jewellery/fashion magazines and websites around the world and has taken prime place in the global market.
Australia’s fashion-conscious consumers are today demanding that jewellery ranges keep in step with more fluid, globalised jewellery trends.
“There is an increasing focus and demand for branded jewellery and brand concepts in Australia,” Mignard says. “Whereas Pandora has clearly revolutionised the middle segment of the Australian jewellery market by introducing a strong and successful brand concept, Ole Lynggaard Copenhagen aims to do the same, targeting the high end of the market.”
“Increased travel and the digital age have ensured the rapid trajectory of ideas, media is consumed and shared at lightning speed,” notes Nikita Papas from FashionTrend Australia, a print forum for trends here. “Local buyers are inspired by everything on the global highway, while the most photographed runways around the globe – Paris, Milan, New York and London – will always provide trend directives.”
Most jewellers haven’t the time or money to regularly attend international trade fairs and collections; however, general trend forecasting websites like WGSN and InfoMat – the latter provides a trend fashion forum that keeps retailers and manufacturers current, from trend analysis, street style, store windows, runway and trade show reports – are becoming indispensable tools.
Furthermore, the TJF Trendbook focuses solely on global jewellery trends. Published in Milan and with agents in Mumbai, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, TJF forecasts consumer trends 15 months in advance of the season using a network of global trendspotters and analysts who research styles in the world’s major urban centres. This is a resource that helps jewellers design and market jewellery to specific consumer groups in the world’s major markets, and stay ahead.
Web logs, or blogs, have further expanded consumers’ jewellery horizons: “Increasing consumer awareness is to be expected with the culture of blogging,” Dugal notes. “It’s become about the individual taking back the power and using communication channels to express themselves.”
Online jewellery trend blogs have become key markers of global jewellery fashions and, in the US, Lisa Jesse’s Jewellery Trend Outline Report – which she claims is Google’s number-one site for jewellery trends – aims to help retailers “keep their businesses on track and on trend”.
A registered gemmologist with over 10 years of trends forecasting experience, Jesse says too many designers and retailers “Try to second-guess their customers’ expectations without studying the trends and end up disappointing. Jewellery trends are an important gauge of the industry. If you have no idea what influences buyers, be it the media, past purchasing patterns or future indicators, your business may not survive.”
Papas says statement pieces will continue to dazzle into 2010: “Fearless design directives and unexpected styling combinations have seen the rise of bold, statement pieces that command attention in isolation or layered fusions.”
Andrew Regan, an online jewellery trendspotter from fashion and accessories trend website Fibre2Fashion.com, agrees, writing recently, “Layered jewellery is strong this season. So don’t buy one necklace, bangle or bracelet this season – buy five! Jennifer Lopez and Drew Barrymore love the layered look.”
Closer to home, Calleija flags yellow gold as continuing its return to the front line. “Gold jewellery is very fashionable overseas right now; I think it will be a strong trend for summer in Australia,” he says, in spite of the soaring gold price and the strong popularity of rose gold, especially with watches – it also contrasts with jewellery trends in 2008, when Reuters reported gold prices had shifted the trend in chunky gold pieces to “a new trend for slinky jewellery, hollowed out pieces and jewellery made from non-traditional materials”.
Calleija is not alone in his assessment, and Cerrone agrees that gold is back: “Currently it’s all about three-tone gold – yellow, white and rose – especially in bangles and rings. Black diamonds are of continued interest and will be in the market for a while longer. Coming into summer, look out for large, semi-precious, right-hand rings and semi-precious, stone-beaded necklaces.”
Regan confirms this: “Every fashion- conscious woman is wearing a cocktail ring.”
Of course, with everyone going back to gold, it can be hard to stand-out from the crowd. Offering that added distinction is the pink diamond, always a favourite of celebrities.
“Pink diamonds are also so popular with celebrities and consumers overseas,” Calleija adds. “They are really understanding the rare nature of Australian pink diamonds and what a unique investment they are.”
Should local jewellers then jettison traditional retail lines for ranges more in step with emerging overseas trends? “It’s important to keep a balance, says Cerrone. “Up-to-date designs will keep your customers interested and excited to see what’s new, but it’s important to keep your traditional pieces, too.”
Papas agrees that tradition still sells, but the future is global. “Classic elegance is timeless but an injection of future modernity will allow traditional jewellers to move with the times and perhaps capture new audiences,” he says.
Getting the mix right will not be easy, but there’s no denying that jewellery has gone global. Dynamic, innovative and in constant flux, a new market has emerged on the back of luxury brands who have co-opted the fashion mags, celebrity stylists, blogs and the trend forecasters themselves, to create a product that is always evolving, exclusive, and different.
Australian jewellers will continue to act locally, but they will need to think globally if they are to capture trend-savvy consumers who have already gone out into the world
Posted January 19, 2010