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International Jewelry Design Guild

Jul 30, 1999 12:00 PM   By Amber Michelle
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By Amber Michelle

Jewelry design is art and jewelry design is business. Now there is a group, the International Jewelry Design Guild (IJDG), that is dedicated to the business of designer jewelry — defining it, promoting it and ensuring standards of excellence.

The idea for the IJDG blossomed two years ago when designers were expressing discontent with their placement at trade shows.

"The group originally came about as a response to trade show placement. There was a desire to get designers to show as a group," says Whitney Boin, principal of the New York firm bearing his name and co-founder of the group with Vincent Polisano of Diana Vincent. "Trade shows are run by industry outsiders and they were putting designers anywhere. The retailers were getting confused about who is actually a designer. And designers felt that the talent was getting watered down."

The IJDG makes its official debut at the Jewelers of America (JA) International Jewelry Show at Javits Center in New York. The design group has an exclusive deal with the JA Show, where it will have a special pavilion on the Galleria level of Javits Center that showcases the 70-plus members of the IJDG in one convenient location.

"We’re trying to bring clarity to the term designer. The JA Show can’t use the term designer anywhere else in the show. We also wanted to be in New York because it is one of the fashion and art capitals of the world," explains Polisano. "We want to help bring the JA Show back and this can enhance the show. I do believe that a lot of people want to come back to New York."

The New York JA Show was selected because designers agreed that the Big Apple is the best venue for them to show their wares due to its atmosphere of art, design and culture.

Designers are admitted into the group by an application process. A rotating nine-person selection panel reviews the applications annually. The criteria for admission into the group is not for publication, but Polisano does say that any designers turned away from the organization will be told why, so that they can use that information to grow into the IJDG’s membership criteria.

"We’re a new organization and the IJDG members are not the only ones who fall into the category. We will have more. We haven’t reached out to everyone yet and there are some people that we approached who didn’t want to join," comments Polisano.

Part of the IJDG mission is to define designer jewelry. Because designer jewelry has become such a buzz word in the industry, every manufacturer has a designer line and it has become confusing to retailers and consumers.

"The IJDG defines designer jewelry as a piece that starts off with a designer — a personality, a person who has an emotional stake and sensibility that he brings to the jewelry. You can see the continuity, an overall look or image. There is also an ongoing commitment to create new pieces, to expand, challenge and evolve as a designer," explains Boin.

Direct to Consumers

The IJDG differs from some of the other design groups already in existence in that it promotes design on a commercial level and it is international in scope. Raising consumer awareness of designer jewelry is a primary goal of the IJDG. In order to ensure that it meets its goals, the IJDG employs a graphics firm, a public relations and marketing company and an executive director — Judy Karlin-Grant. Money from dues pays for these services.

"It’s hard to keep an organization going with only volunteers," comments Boin on the decision to employ a professional staff.

The group plans to create a co-op advertising program with its members that will run in fashion and lifestyle magazines such as Town & Country, InStyle and Food & Wine as well as in design oriented publications.

"We hope to become a clearinghouse for editors who are looking for a particular piece of jewelry. The editors can contact our public relations company or executive director and let them know what they are looking for and then we can give them members’ names who may have that item," says Polisano.

Another goal of IJDG is to become a brand. Any special magazine advertising sections that the group does will carry its logo. The group will promote designer jewelry as a whole. Whitney Boin was recently taped for an episode of the E! Network’s Fashion Emergency, but he wasn’t promoting his own jewelry. Instead, he was representing the IJDG as a whole and he was showing jewelry created by Stephan Hafner.

"We feel that designer jewelry has lost ground to other luxury items. We want to elevate it and get it to the forefront. We want consumer editors to think of jewelry design as a category to write about and show in their magazines," comments Boin.

Come Together

Dedicated to working with other organizations in the industry, the IJDG has started to work with Jewelers of America to produce a video and handbook directed to the retailer on how to market and merchandise designer jewelry. The group hopes to work with other trade organizations in the industry to benefit all.

"Our organization is dedicated to working with other organizations in the industry. Anything we can do to partner or help an organization, we’ll do it. We’re not trying to break up other organizations. We want to help the industry as a whole," notes Polisano.

Educating the retailers on designer jewelry is of prime importance to the IJDG.

"People in the group are known designers, of known quality," says Boin. "Retailers can look to the group as a pool of talent and as a resource for information."

The group is currently putting together a list of criteria for retailers so that they can become members. The stores will bear logos that identify them to consumers as IJDG member stores. One of the criteria is that the retailer must be actively involved with some of the IJDG members. The retailers will then be able to participate in the co-op advertising as well. Those stores that do participate will get signage for their cases. The group also hopes to ensure that the staff of any store selling designer jewelry is as well versed on the subject as the jewelry buyer.

"We’re taking the next step and creating greater awareness of designer jewelry. It’s the fastest growing category in the industry and the one that retailers go for first. But it kept getting put in the back at shows," says Boin. "Now we’ll have our own floor and environment. We’ll be able to make a community for commerce and a place to exchange ideas."
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Tags: Consumers, Jewelers of America, Jewelry, Trade Shows
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