Real questions brew for real thinkers around the “Designed by Celebrity” phenomenon we’re confronted with these days. Like weeds encroaching on a well-groomed lawn we have cross-fit devotee-models, singer-entertainers and the like being introduced as “Fine Jewelry Designers” in various manners of spin. For serious jewelry collectors, this message delights much like a dingle-berry in the punchbowl. The message we’re receiving is “we hope you have the instincts of a lemming” or more dryly….”Appropriate Education Completely Unneccessary”.
From the outside and occasionally from the inside, being a fine jewelry designer is a super-shiny, aspirational position. It seems unattainable for those not born to industry families, except for the brave that charge in to find out what is required from an ordinary human who dares to live the artist life. Years of learning, mistakes, improvement, investment of a frightening amount of money if you have your own line, travel, negotiation, competition and it doesn’t end for most of the best. Respect for those, the most highly regarded designers doing the work that put them at the top. On their feet greeting shoppers in Bergdorf Goodman in the last hours of December 24. Traveling from state to state to meet clients in personal appearances. Jewelry designers of broad recognition for the most part still earn their title.
The message we’re sending our creative class, should these new weeds take ahold, is this. If you want to be known as a high end jewelry designer, you’ve got some serious work ahead of you in the gym and the recording studio.. Not your skill set? Have a famous parent? No? Good luck to you. Seriously.
So is this a case of nouveau culture tone-deafness being incongruent with the seriously fine jewelry audience? Or, are established-brand jewelry houses becoming caught between a rock and a hard place for those Instagram hits and thus borrowing wholesale from the fashion industry and cosmetics’ “marketing constructs du jour”? If it works with the throngs purchasing thirty dollar lip kits, can it work magic with 18 karat gold and gems?
Just for familiarity, let’s review the efforts of a few “unbelievably talented” celebrities related to us by established media in regard to their fine jewelry designing chops.
These are just a few samples of the media generated with a google search. Jewelry companies would have you believe that in the midst of everything else, these celebrities are doing the designing work. For every few articles that describe the celebrity as an “influence” or a “collaborator” there will be headlines or statements that tango with the words “designed” and “designer” in reference to the celebrity, if not declaring such outright.
To be clear, omni-channel entrepreneurs and creative collaborations are interesting. They create excitement and infuse diversity, even the ones that are quite fluffy. Ivanka Trump had a “brand” which incorporated seasoned jewelry designers working for that brand. Tiffany and Co. had a feel-good campaign with Lady Gaga that felt right. However, it was clear in all messaging that the legitimate design work was from Tiffany and Co. and not Lady Gaga.
The likes of Chopard, with a covetable history of high jewelry and Messika (who arguably deserve more exposure and applause for the in-house design talent pre-Gigi Hadid campaign) can set the right example of authenticity. Party like rock stars in Cannes if those are your perks from the collaboration, but in the act of creative leadership, be vigilant that your media coverage is consistent and clear about the real designing being done. Be an advocate for Authentic Luxury. Then, put your jewels on these beautiful women and snap away.