JCK and Couture 2014: Sparkle in the desert

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A closer look at the jewels and awards at the leading US trade shows.

For five days each year, Las Vegas glitters even brighter with the arrival of the JCK Las Vegas and Couture jewellery shows, where commercial silver sits alongside intricately-crafted designs swathed in stones. More than 7,000 people attended this year’s shows, with the British contingent the largest in several years. Kathryn bishop gauges opinion from the Brits abroad.

As a city famed for big money and spontaneous weddings, Las Vegas goes hand-in-hand with jewellery and, it appears, makes the perfect setting for two of the US market’s leading jewellery trade shows, JCK Las Vegas and Couture.

These annual events opened their doors at the end of May and, over the course of a five-day period, welcomed more than 7,000 buyers from across the world, shopping everything from mass-manufactured diamond jewellery and the latest manufacturing technology, to sumptuous one-of-a-kind pieces and artisanal creations.

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Visitor and exhibitor feedback from both shows reveals an upbeat mood and positive reaction to this year’s events, with the organisers reporting solid footfall and optimism from both the US and international jewellery markets.

JCK LAS VEGAS
The 23rd edition of JCK Las Vegas opened on May 30, running for four days and welcoming more than 3,000 new buyers. The show reportedly attracted a “strong” international audience, with attendance from China, Brazil, Russia, India and the UK.

Those visiting the show from the UK had the chance to see a jewellery trade event on a huge scale, browsing more than 2,500 exhibitors across the realms of fine jewellery, Swiss watches, gallery jewellery and pavilions dedicated to Italian, Hong Kong and British design. In fact, 2014 marked the first time in six years that a British Pavilion was installed at JCK, supported by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and British Jewellery and Giftware International (BJGI). Designers and brands taking part included Buckley London, Kate Hamilton-Hunter Studio, Shrieking Violet and Manja Jewellery.

Says David Kukadia of UKTI: “This year’s group of UK designers and exhibitors displayed an array of trendsetting, unique and breathtaking designs, and the British Pavilion was transformed into a major attraction where British designs that are synonymous with creativity, flair and quality were eloquently showcased.” Kukadia said BJGI and UKTI are “confident” that JCK Las Vegas is the perfect catalyst to launch designers and companies into the US and international market, with this year’s Pavilion described as ideally located next to JCK Las Vegas’ Prestige area and the Plumb Club.

“The positive response and reaction we received was overwhelming and furthermore reinforced the necessity and importance of a British pavilion at this influential and celebrated show,” Kukadia says. “We all sensed and experienced a wave of success and the start of something great.”

New exhibitor Kate Hamilton-Hunter, who took part in the British Pavilion, echoes Kukadia’s words. She says: “As a first-time exhibitor at JCK Las Vegas, I really valued the experience to meet and talk to American buyers. I left the show with a few orders and really valuable contacts that I am in conversation with. Now I’m back in the UK [I plan] to develop my jewellery further for the US market.”

JCK Las Vegas, organised by Reed Exhibitions, is a sister show to International Jewellery London (IJL). Members of the IJL team, including international sales manager Holly Mills and UK sale manager Fotoulla Michael, headed out to Vegas to experience the show first-hand. They described the show as the busiest to date, praising its clear, easy-to-navigate layout. On the subject of what caught her eye, Mills says: “We were impressed with Danhov’s new custom built stand in Luxury at JCK– it really stood out and they were launching some exciting new collections, which we are looking forward to having at IJL too this year. US silver brand Dizeo also stood out for their design and will be one to watch in the UK market soon.”

From a business point of view, that is, seeking out fresh exhibitors for the IJL show in London, Mills and Michael believe visiting shows such as JCK is a must, due to the size, variety and quality of brands that take part. “The timing is good to give us a taste of what’s to come at IJL three months down the line and, as JCK is our sister event, it’s also an ideal opportunity to catch-up with our colleagues from Reed Exhibitions across the globe,” Michael adds.

THE COUTURE SHOW
Running concurrently to JCK is The Couture Show, an invite-only event for buyers of luxury jewellery and the fashion press. It is held at the Wynn Hotel and describes itself as an exclusive and intimate destination for the luxury jewellery and timepiece market, with a curated selection of 250 exhibitors.

While the show has not released an official post-event report, it won approximately 4,000 visitors this year, with a 15% increase in international and speciality retailers, and 15% growth in international exhibitors.

Couture director Gannon Brousseau told Professional Jeweller: “The Couture Show is a tightly-curated event. Our goal is quality over quantity. We’re looking for designers with their own unique voice and we want to bring the best retailers from around the world to ensure they will discover designers they will never see anywhere else.”

The show’s first-day report said visitors were upbeat about the level and type of exhibitors taking part, commenting how the show had “exceeded expectations” in terms of both the environment of the show and the new collections that were presented.

“After all of the hard work of the past year, and all of the constant communication we’ve had with our designers and our retailers, it’s so gratifying to come together to celebrate our community in the exceptional ambience of the Wynn,” Brousseau added.

Couture visitor Maia Adams, one half of the team behind Adorn Insight, the specialised resource dedicated to providing market intelligence, data analysis and trend forecasts to the global jewellery industry, said this year’s Couture offered much by way of creativity and craftsmanship. “Often, it’s not the showstopping pieces that have the best story; being at the shows, you can talk to the designers and learn about the lengths they go to to achieve the finished product [and] it’s amazing how much passion – dare I say obsession – can go into some pieces.”

Adams visited Couture and the JCK show primarily to meet existing Adorn Insight subscribers and prospective new subscribers, having presented a paper at the Santa Fe Jewelry Manufacturing Symposium just before heading to Las Vegas.

“The Couture and JCK shows provide a fantastic opportunity to put faces to the names of our subscribers, to get acquainted with retailers, designers and manufacturers who want to better understand how we can support them, and to further nurture these relationships,” says Adams. “They also give us a chance to discuss new projects and avenues for growth and win new clients. There’s no denying that the shows are a busy period but with some careful diary planning you can do a phenomenal amount of business,” she reveals.

Adams was also in attendance to visit the burgeoning jewellery talents that are part of the British Fashion Council’s Rock Vault initiative, who for the second year took part in Couture under the wing of Stephen Webster. “Adorn insight sits on the Rock Vault selection panel and it’s a delight to see how this talented and super-cool young team [of designer-makers] are evolving their practice in a way that retains their unique signatures whilst introducing that all-important element of commercial appeal,” Adams says.

Aside from Rock Vault, Couture also played host to a number of British brands including Astley Clarke, which took the first steps in a major wholesale push into the US, with a beautifully-curated stand that told the stories behind its collections. Having wowed buyers at the show, Astley Clarke is set to move into 11 Nieman Marcus stores, Ylang23, Lane Crawford, three more Saks stores and a number of leading US independent retailers.

The Couture show was rounded off by the annual Couture Design Awards, where jewellery design at its finest level was praised with the help of applause and champagne. Pitted against a host of US designers, the British contingent won big on the night, with Yoko London, Shaun Leane, Jo Hayes-Ward and Stephen Webster taking home prizes, alongside London-based Brazilian designer Fernando Jorge.

Jos Skeates, co-founder of retailer EC One, also attended the show as part of the Rock Vault selection panel. He said that having travelled halfway across the world, it was the small band of British designers that stood out most.

“During the lavish awards event, the loudest cheers were emanating from the tables of Brits, whether for Shaun Leane, Stephen Webster or the new group of talented designer-makers [at Rock Vault], it proved we still have a great deal to shout about on this side of the pond.”

This feature was taken from the July issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue in full online, click here

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