Rapaport Magazine


High-fashion icon Lauren Kulchinsky Levison has a low opinion of online retail and the instant gratification it brings to the jewelry world.

By Rachael Taylor

As the rest of the retail world obsesses over digital and how best to leverage it for profit, there is one jewelry tastemaker sitting aloof from the crowd. With a thick disdain for influencers and Instagram shops, Lauren Kulchinsky Levison of Mayfair Rocks laments the rise of self-purchasing and the quick-win culture that the internet has generated.

Mayfair Rocks, an exclusive boutique in New York luxury enclave The Hamptons, caters to an elite clientele. Its shoppers are well-heeled and fashionable, and the selection of jewels on offer reflects this. Click on to Mayfair Rocks’ purposefully spartan website and you’ll find an unusual mix of global brands listed (listed only, mind you — e-commerce remains a dirty word). Among them are Lydia Courteille, Stephen Webster, Carla Amorim and Silvia Furmanovich.

Fashion first

Kulchinsky Levison doesn’t just know how to sell to this crowd, she is this crowd — and that shapes how she buys inventory for her store.

“I’m a different animal,” she says during the Visio.Next Trends summit at recent Italian trade show VicenzaOro. “Fashion, to me, is first. I look at necklines, hemlines, wrists. I look at the fashion, and then I choose jewelry. People buy their clothing first; no matter how many times we try to tell them to buy the jewelry first, they don’t.”

What she sees on the catwalks influences what she buys, and this season’s shows in New York, London, Milan and Paris have left her thinking about asymmetric earrings, chokers, and Victorian-style high necklines that will make it “all about the hands” when her clients choose jewels to match.

Insidious influencers?

Despite her outspoken aversion to digital influencers, her personal Instagram page looks very much like the feed of a fashion blogger. Candid street-style shots of her treading pavements in impossibly glamorous — and expensive — designer dresses are matched with quirky captions and hashtags like #ballgownsforbreakfast. The difference between her and them, she says, is that she can afford what she posts.

“I personally don’t buy into the influencers at all,” she says. “To me, the influencers have taken the place of people like us — the people that actually buy jewelry and pay attention. The influencers are people who are taking up space for free. They are being sponsored by the brands and are being given clothing and jewelry that they can’t afford, and that their followers can’t afford, but they like it, so they are given likes and that’s their form of currency. And to me, it’s got to end soon. If you are looking into using influencers to help your business, reevaluate that.”

And when it comes to jewelry brands wielding a semblance of influence through their own online profiles, Kulchinsky Levison is just as turned off. She feels brands selling directly to consumers online creates too much competition for retailers that carry their products. Customers will always prefer to buy direct, she notes — speaking from her own perspective as a high-fashion fan — as it makes them feel they have a relationship with the designer. This cuts stores out, and it makes her angry.

“[Brands are] putting their jewelry in my shop, they’re taking up my space, they are bothering me every two weeks asking what’s going on,” she says with exasperation. “If you’d stop selling it on your own site and, I’m sure, giving a discount, as you want to make your own sales, [it might move faster]. Why are you even in my store?”

The perils of accessibility

While Kulchinsky Levison’s ideal brand will leave a digital footprint no bigger than an information-only website directing curious browsers to retailers like Mayfair Rocks, there is one exception she will make, and that is selling through highly curated online marketplaces such as FarFetch.

Direct sales on a brand’s Instagram page with transparent pricing, however, are a big no-no, and will likely prevent her from stocking that brand in her store.

“It devalues it, it makes it so accessible,” she says. “When a really good brand says ‘press here,’ it makes it seem like instant gratification.”

And this is the crux of her problem with these digital days: She fears that the accessibility of it all makes jewelry less important.

“I miss that time when it was no self-purchasing,” she says. “Then, you got jewelry for important events. It doesn’t mean anything anymore. Jewelry meant so much, and I feel like now, it’s just an accessory.”

Who is Lauren Kulchinsky Levison?The self-anointed chief style officer of luxury East Hampton jeweler Mayfair Rocks, Lauren Kulchinsky Levison is the buyer and vice president of her fourth-generation family business. In 2002, she became the youngest person and only the second woman to be inducted into the National Jeweler Hall of Fame, and a year later, the Italian Trade Commission presented her with the key to Italy. She has also developed an off-the-clock reputation as a style icon; her taste for couture and willingness to share it on Instagram has made her a bona fide fashion insider.

Image: Lauren Kulchinsky Levison

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - November 2018. To subscribe click here.

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