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Articles from FASHION JEWELLERY (291 Articles)


From figment to fashion

Designers must overcome many obstacles if they are to have their ideas entrenched as trends. TALI BOROWSKI reports.

Ask any designer and they'll say the same thing: coming up with the design is not the hard part. Ideas are not scarce, inspiration is not lacking and effort is not deficient.

Turning those ideas into something bigger, something that becomes desirable on a mass scale is the real challenge, and creating a trend? Well, that's almost the stuff of dreams.

A huge part of trendsetting is the way designers react to changes in the marketplace around them.

Sharon Rae, who runs Melbourne-based forecasting company Fashion Forecast Services, believes that catwalk trends play a major part in helping a design find mass market appeal: "Primarily, on the volume level, it's driven by the catwalks. The consumers see the catwalks quite readily these days through all sorts of media, and the red carpet moments have huge impact."

Nicola Cerrone, who has been designing his eponymous jewellery line for 30 years, describes Australians as "sponges", accepting new trends quickly and often on the lookout for the next big thing.

"We service our customers much more than anywhere around the world because the customers have a lot of ideas. They open their mind to what's available or what they've seen and will accept new changes much easier," he says.

"I think we're influenced greatly by overseas trends," adds Jewellers Association of Australia CEO Ian Hadassin. "You'll find that many manufacturers will go overseas to get design ideas, bring out a particular range of jewellery and then test the market to see how it goes."

What can also play a part in a designer's success is how accurately they read not just the domestic market but also the global mood. Whether economic, environmental, political or social, design is not immune to world events.

"You know that when people are going through difficult economic times that the confidence is low, that people aren't necessarily thinking with any great assurance about the future," says Kathy Demos from the National Design Centre. "So the kinds of products that tend to resonate with consumers at the time are things that embody values that are to do with comfort, safety, longer-term investments."

She points to jewellery designed as keepsakes, marking significant moments in time or being passed through generations as examples of these products, pieces that tend to be valued during this period over and above those that offer instant gratification.

But, Demos adds, "As you come out of times like that, the pendulum might swing the other way and you're prepared to relax, feel a little bit more inclined to spend money on things that might not be with you for a long time and think quite differently about it.

"I think the thing about trends is that they reflect our society and our culture and the way we live our lives. The only reason people take up these trends is because they're appropriate to them at that point in time. I think luck has nothing to do with it."

Paola De Luca, creative director of Italian-based forecasting company TJF Group, agrees, stating that "trends start as a reaction to changes." While designers may be "simply people, they follow their instincts and impulses, expressing themselves and the 'social tribe' they represent," De Luca adds.

"Globalisation brings new design approaches, styles, blends and different ways of wearing things," she says.

But Sharon Rae also adds that the process of a design becoming a trend is often in the hands of the consumer.

"At the end of the day, if the consumer doesn't get it, there's no point. If you're not in touch with the other end, then you're going to have difficulty being successful long-term."

Cerrone agrees: "Whenever you design anything, you ask, 'Would my customer love to wear this piece?' You always go back to your customers. There's no point designing something that your customers don't want."

So what are some of the designs that have succeeded in becoming not only desirable, but a trend, within the jewellery industry?

"The whole boho and ethnic trend of a few seasons ago had a huge impact on jewellery manufacturing and sales in Australia," says Tony Bannister, director of Sydney-based trend forecasting company, Scout.

"Of course, now we're swinging back the other way to more simple statement pieces; the move to more organic and natural jewellery trends is in part due to a more responsible and environmentally aware consumer," he says.

Cerrone also believes that simplicity is key when it comes to jewellery design of today.

"I think it's because we're going through a trend for tailored pieces at the moment," he says. "The customer today wants pieces to last and they want them to be absolutely perfectly-made."

This desire for long-lasting keepsakes arises, in part, because jewellery buyers in Australia don't have the strict seasonal purchasing habits of larger (wealthier) international markets, according to Melbourne jeweller Fiorina Golotta. "Australians don't buy seasonally," she says. "The Australian mentality is to buy jewellery once in a lifetime and it has to be loaded, it has to have that staying power and it's got to be passed on."

Hadassin accepts that Australians aren't as "jewellery conscious" as their European counterparts, subsequently spending less on jewellery per capita, but explains, "If a girl falls in love with a ring, then a lot of barriers fall. Price doesn't become that important anymore."

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The globalisation of the jewellery industry has made life easier for designers in two ways: firstly, an increase in consumers means there is an increase in the likelihood of designer's finding appeal for their creations.

"Today, we have many buyers from different ethnic backgrounds, so it doesn't matter how unusual the piece is; you will always find a buyer," Cerrone says.

Secondly, the pressure to create long-lasting trends is gone. The speed of trading now means that many designers are aiming to capitalise on fleeting trends. "Some trends can be a very fast reaction to what's happening in our lives and may not be around for long," Demos adds. "A jewellery trend might be very temporary, but that could be the intention; I don't think it should be dismissed because of that."

Yet, Demos warns designers against drawing too much inspiration from foreign markets. "It would be a mistake to think that something that is appropriate for Europe or North America is necessarily going to work here," she says, "because there are particular characteristics and idiosyncrasies that will be reflected in the way consumers make decisions about what they want to buy."

Citing climate and population size as two factors needed to be taken into consideration when designing for a local audience, Demos also points out that Australians tend to show their individuality "through the stories of others, represented by the sense of hand-made, decorative artefacts often crafted from a range of unexpected materials."

"There is less interest in the bejewelled effects of highly precious jewellery where price is clearly on show," she says.

And as Hadassin points out, "Our manufacturing industry in Australia is very small. We've lost a lot of market share to overseas and we import most of our jewellery today. There's quite a large number of really talented young designers in Australia who probably don't reach their full potential because that part of the market is so small."

But while conservative tendencies in Australia can be largely attributed to manufacturers wanting to capture as wide as audience as possible, Demos argues that the way Australians have taken up advances in technology is proof the public is open to change.

"I think that we probably have lots of groundbreaking designers in a fairly conservative market," Demos says.

Golotta believes, "Australian jewellery designers have the best of both worlds. We have such choice but we're so far away that people have to actively seek their own stimulus just because of the pure physicality of where we are."

To De Luca, the Australian jewellery industry is still young. In time, its "innovative and fresh approach will catch up internationally."

But Rae reiterates that designers must be in tune with their market if they are to get innovative designs to become mass-market trends by "meeting the consumer's demands without taking away from the integrity of the design or the quality of the product".

"You've got to keep designing and you've got to be innovative and different," says Cerrone. "Not everything you do is going to be fabulous, but you need to try."

And, Demos adds, for a design to succeed, it must be intelligent as well as capture the consumer's imagination.

"I don't think people are easily told or fooled by very transitory things. It needs to feel right for them and if you're adept at tapping into that feeling, then whatever you produce, people will respond to it accordingly."

Designers can make major impressions upon their market by combining a well-balanced mix of industry nous with creative flair. Importantly, as many of the experts stress, designers must never forget the end consumer - ultimately, they're the final judge.

Designs to watch: what's new on the radar?

"Perspex, metallic and organic materials such as wood, raffia, straw and fabric jewellery are trends with staying power," says Tony Bannister from forecasting group Scout.

"Platinum has been quite popular in recent years," says Nicholas Theocari from MDT Design; however, yellow gold is making a big comeback. "There is no rule as to keeping within the one colour gold and many of our clientele are combining the various colours in their engagement rings and wedding bands."

Kathy Demos from the National Design Centre says there's been a recent interest in handmade, or sense of handmade, jewellery. "It's fascinating that despite how industrialised we are, how much access we have to technology and types of production and materials, that sometimes the work that seems to resonate the most is something that really looks like it's been crafted by hand, especially for you," she says.

"Engagement rings are now very classical and they're going as simple as possible," Nicola Cerrone says. "Years ago, it was very much about the setting; today we're really highlighting the diamond."

"How ethical our industry is and how sustainable it is will become a factor and consumers will start to insist upon jewellery that's made in factories that pay reasonable wages, that mining of gold or diamonds is environmentally sustainable, and so forth," says Ian Hadassin, CEO of the JAA.

Tali Borowski
Informa Markets

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