Defining market scope for Costume Jewellery

Christophe contacted Sarika, an Indian designer, after years of acquaintance, this march. He was very excited. He had just been back from a spring summer 2011 forecast show and one of the themes this year had been India. He took India as an inspiration and now was looking for a partner for potential collaboration. “Will it be sourcing again like last time?” asked Sarika. “Non, It will be much more. We can design here. And if Yvonne (design head) likes, we can market your collection under our brand as well, like you wanted.” “And we sell in Europe?” she asked. “Yes, we source all over the world, manufacture here to cut costs, distribute over e-mall as well as our store in France”. Great!  The emails were exchanged. Sarika waited for his visit. And waited. Christophe never got back. His Chinese supplier had provided him a better deal for setting the business along with components, and better terms for facilities location. And you know what? He was not even interested in the design rights.

The sea had been rather rough today. Instead of the beach, Anita choose to browse through the many shops dotting Calangute Beach in Goa. Lonely planet had mentioned a Friday market in Mapusa, but she had not found anything interesting to carry back, apart from the cashew and feni. Here by the beach side, the seashell display caught her eyes. Soon she was taking her pick from the wide variety which she saw. “Can you attach another shell at the bottom of this earring please? And I want ten pieces.” she told the shopkeeper. “Madam, we only sell in this shop. Manufacturing is far away, please choose another thing that you like…” he held up another earring to interest her “ See….this is better, lot of demand”. “No. I want this one with another hanging.” “Ma’am, you can choose from the others…”. He took a box out from the display. But no, Anita was stubborn about what she wanted and how it should be altered. The shopkeeper kept offering her alternatives from the merchandise.Yes, the minor change could be done. Not here, but in Calcutta, from where he had sourced the piece. You see, there is hardly any industry for seashell craft in Goa. Lesser for costume jewellery. Lack of demand is said to be the factor.

Radhika went to her family Jeweller. “Uncle, I want this piece done in silver”. She held towards him a beaded bracelet that she had picked from a craft bazaar. Satish bhai, was the most prominent Jeweller in the city and family jeweller to Radhika’s family since generations. Radhika was the daughter of his biggest customer and there were rumors about her marriage soon. Satish Bhai smiled. “But this is costume jewellery! Why don’t you let me make this for you in Gold…ah!…. And instead of the turquiose beads you can have tiny diamonds. Let me talk to your father…..” he began dialing a number.. “No uncle!” she interrupted. “Those beads go with my dress …” Satish Bhai sighed and kept the phone down. He smiled. He then motioned to his secretary,“Call the designer.” He said.

We learnt in design school that there are few categories of jewellery like precious, non precious (costume) and imitation.Costume jewellery is regarded as jewellery worn to complement the “costume” or garment of the wearer. It is generally made of non precious base metals and is a fashionable product i.e. it needs to change fast with the fashion trends. It now encompasses many other styles of jewellery which may be regarded as fashionable in a trend cycle, like ethnic/tribal jewellery, antique jewellery, jewellery out of new  (polymerclay)or recyclable materials (paper mache) etc.

From the above examples, we see that the international market for costume jewellery is huge. Sarika, like many talented designers in India, seeks to explore her own creativity, but she however is victim to the image of India as a sourcing store. While India has been long regarded as a sourcing destination, the transition to a jewellery manufacturing and now, designer costume jewellery destination is desirable. In the next example, of a fashion forward tourist location, we see how costume jewellery could metamorphosise from a personal adornment object to a souvenir/ personalized gift, ultimately increasing its market potential. However, there is a gap between the local resources, supply and the market presence.

Finally, customers like Radhika, seem to drive the point of the growing fashion conscious youth population. Bombarded with new age influences, they are ready to experiment and move on when selecting pieces they really wish to wear. And they seem to be growing sharper, smarter and more fashionable than the traditional jewellery megaliths. Need to watch out for this segment.

In a continuum, let us suppose (based on value) one end is precious jewellery and on the other end, is non precious materials/costume jewellery. In between is the semi precious and imitation. Fashion stretches this band from the “fashion based” non precious costume jewellery to the precious “investment” based precious jewellery (gold, Pt, diamonds ). Precious jewellery, which has been imitating “costume” styling to appear more fashion forward; could, in the times of price rise, silver based jewellery, which was once regarded as costume jewellery, be now regarded as investment? While, we have enormous options on one end of the continuum, the weight is much less on the costume jewellery end,  and thus a great imbalance for jewellery seekers.

Fashion, however, is quickly blurring the boundaries between the precious and the costume elements and bringing the two closer together in a fusion.

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The above is an unpublished article done for a Jewellery Journal

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