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Jewelry Industry Undergoing Historic Transformation

Q & A With Paola De Luca - Founder of Trendvision Jewellery & Forecasting

Jul 13, 2014 3:14 AM   By Rapaport News
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RAPAPORT... Trendvision Jewellery & Forecasting is an independent research center charged with tracking socio-cultural phenomena in art, architecture and fashion while uncovering the underlying connections in the jewelry, watches and luxury goods sectors. Rapaport News spoke with Paola De Luca, founder, creative director and forecaster of Trendvision Jewellery & Forecasting, to gain some insights about the company, jewelry design trends and what's influencing design in 2014.

Rapaport News: What is the mandate of Trendvision?

PDL: Trendvision is an independent research center monitoring product trends in the market. It is focused on products rather than statistical data.

I started doing trend forecasting in the early '90s in New York and over the years developed a methodology which originally comes from the apparel industry. No one was doing it in the jewelry industry, so I started doing it in a private capacity.

In 2002, I founded the TJF Group in London and in 2012 Fierra di Vicenza embraced the mission that I had started years ago. They adopted Trendvision as a separate and independent department, meaning that Trendvision is not owned by Vincenza Fair, but we produce research on their behalf.

It’s important for us to be independent of the trade show division because the information should not be influenced in any way.

We have an international network of professionals in New York, London, Paris and Hong Kong that enable us to collect and analyze the information and produce the research internally.

Rapaport News: How do you come up with your forecasts?

PDL: There is no secret and there is no crystal ball. We are specialists in the jewelry industry and we are also insiders because we actually produce and design collections for brands and manufacturers. Besides that, we assess social and cultural changes ranging from cinematography and Hollywood movies to the catwalks in Paris, London and New York, to exhibitions and shows taking place around the world. We are very close to the jewelry intelligentsia on an international level.

We have a different vision from regular jewelry industry members. The jewelry industry is very merchant-oriented and very into carat weight and price, but tends to be disconnected from the rest of the world. The trade is focused on making money and we are not against that but we consider many other aspects that often are not considered during trading.

We work with the trade across the pipeline including miners, global organizations, government associations and the fashion industry. We’re able to translate all of this information into a common language to help companies with their operational planning. We don't have any secrets besides hard work, knowledge, passion and many years of experience.

Rapaport News: Does the trade tend to ignore the fashion element of the jewelry market?

PDL: Part of the problem is that when you use the word ‘fashion,’ it is sometimes rejected because it is associated with passing fads. Meanwhile, the jewelry industry believes that a diamond is forever and gold is here to stay, so there is a different mindset.

But I think that is a misconception about fashion. To be ‘in fashion’ or ‘en-vogue’ refers to the predominant trend in the market, which is a reflection of contemporary lifestyle. It would be a mistake for the jewelry trade not to consider changes in consumer tastes. Global brands are becoming very strong, and mixed media and emerging designers are doing really well, compared to companies that didn't embrace the influences of the digital era.

Rapaport News:
How quickly do trends change in the market? It doesn’t seem that there are very significant changes in engagement ring trends, for example.

PDL: We have just completed a substantial research report on bridal trends in North America for one of the largest U.S. retailers and we found that it’s not true that there are no changes. Just looking at the consumer magazines that target brides and the bridal market, you can see distinct styles.

Design trends vary from minimalist to art deco or vintage-inspired, to floral to rough diamond to bi-color. The diamonds typically used are round, but you also have variations of oval, emerald and cushion cuts. If you want to get more complex, there is the halo phenomenon, which includes up to three round diamonds in a setting.

Companies are being lazy if they think that using a very good diamond is enough. It is up to a certain point, but design has a strong influence in the bridal and engagement ring market.

Trends change as quickly as magazine covers and celebrities and couture influence mainstream manufacturers’ designs.

Manufacturers and diamantaires understand that there is big potential in diamonds. Some miners are pushing the concept of everyday fashion or ready-to-wear diamond jewelry. They’re also promoting the idea of diamond gift-giving at life occasions.

Rapaport News: What trends are you seeing in jewelry in 2014?

PDL: When we forecast things, it means that many of these trends are already in the market. One of the strongest trends we have seen from a product perspective is the concept of fluidity. Designers are using fluid and linear lines that are associated with air or water using gold and diamonds. The objective is to have a very lightweight design.

Another direction is a very minimalist approach, which involves more tiny pieces – not just diamonds and gems.

These strong design trends are becoming more popular because they suit current market needs. They are lightweight and affordable. When there is little or lighter-weight gold, there is an opportunity to add more gemstones or diamonds.

Technology has enabled a strong trend toward laser design, which is also lightweight and cutout. It can go from an extremely romantic, traditional design, which we already started to see two seasons ago, to abstract and geometric-type designs. These would typically include diamond or gemstone accents. The next level in laser, cut-out design is to add layers with materials like gold or inlaid semiprecious stones.

A trend that has stayed strong is stone-clustering, which involves galaxies of different sized gemstones placed together. Another direction is hammered gold for a kind of unshaped feeling, which is influenced by ancient cultures. Craftsmanship is the common denominator among all production styles because jewelry lovers and collectors are interested in a tailor-made or handmade feeling.

Rapaport News: Did the 2008 financial crisis influence that shift toward lighter jewelry as consumers tightened their budgets?

PDL: Yes, it did. But every time that the world has faced difficulties, great ideas come out of it. These global crises, and the fact that gold prices rose, pushed trends toward a minimalistic approach and the use of alternative materials.

I think Europe, and particularly Italy, is a little bit ahead of the game because of the economic hardships there in the past few years. We are also used to expressing our own individuality visually. We are very concerned with design and nowadays design is achieved with whatever material is needed. It is no longer just about gold.

The challenge is to mesh local authentic design with international appeal. Consumers like unique things and cultural influences. Importantly, affordability should not be confused with being cheap. It means the price should be proportionate to the intrinsic value of the piece and reflect the added value of the design philosophy.

Rapaport News: To what extent are consumers in new markets like China and India influencing international design?

The global high-end jewelers are targeting affluent Chinese consumers. For example, every year they follow the theme of the Chinese New Year, so we saw many dragons during the Year of the Dragon.

India has a big influence as well, partly because it’s such a big diamond center. Sliced diamonds are very popular right now in terms of fashion design, largely because of the Indian influence in the diamond sector. They used it for centuries, since the Moghul period, and international designers have picked up this trend and incorporated it into their designs.

Rapaport News: We are seeing a lot of colored diamonds at trade shows and rising popularity for colored gemstones. Are those complimentary or competitive?

I don’t think they compete with each other. There are many different grades and colors of diamonds, which make diamonds extremely affordable and accessible. Rather, it’s a matter of design and implementation. Gemstones have a fantastic design of their own, but there are also millions of designs that can be done in combination with diamonds, which can be used to underline a gemstone’s beauty.

Design is all about underlining the beauty of different materials and the challenge is that we want jewelry to be a luxury product that tells a story. Jewelry should provide value beyond the price of just the diamond or gold.

If jewelry is just about money, then custom or fashion jewelry can be more appealing than fine jewelry. I think the biggest competition today is not diamonds versus gemstones but rather fine versus fashion jewelry. Sometimes, fashion jewelry is more appealing than fine jewelry because there is more room for creativity.

Rapaport News:
How are brands adjusting their designs to meet market trends?

PDL: The trade tends to think that if you brand a product, no matter how average or boring it may seem, the brand brings extra value. Certainly, packaging a mediocre product and selling it with a good display is better than an average product without a good marketing story, but it’s not the solution. If jewelry or luxury products have no content or thought behind them, then you can call it any name you want, but consumers will not buy it. The end product has to reflect the design and love that went into making the piece.

Today, it is a challenge because young people have seen it all and they’re exposed to so much information on an hourly basis, so stories don’t last, unless it’s something truly meaningful.

I think that the jewelry and luxury industry is undergoing a historic transformation as society evolves. Our challenge is to transform beauty into an object in a timeless manner and it’s been a long time since this has happened, but there are people doing it.

People are interested in the story behind the product and want to know that it is consistent, coherent and authentic.

Rapaport News:
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?

PDL: You have to be humble and passionate about everything you do. Have an open mind and be flexible to changes in your environment because everything around us has an effect on what we do. Every little component can be incorporated into a design and the vision of our business.
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