TRENDS: Friendship bracelets

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Popular throughout summer but do these fun accessories have longevity?

Friendship bracelets have been one of the surprise hits in the jewellery market over the past year. A lighter, cheaper alternative to charms, the wristwear enjoyed a summer of love that has lasted right through until winter.

Once solely the accessory of hippies and prepubescent girls, friendship bracelets are suddenly cool, and surprisingly unisex. Nearly every week on TV fashion monitor The X Factor, contestants were trotted out with forearms all a-tangle with Links of London bracelets, girls and boys alike.

As well as Links of London, Monica Vinader has been leading the way in the friendship bracelet market with its Fiji and Rio collection of bracelets that retail from about £80 to £130. The brand’s eponymous designer Monica Vinader says that demand was such that the brand sold out of friendship bracelets in October and bracelets that made it through to London department store Harrods were then selling out within two days.

“It’s taken us a little bit by surprise even though we forecast ambitious figures,” says Vinader. “It’s slightly irreverent and less formal which makes it very accessible. I think it’s a strong trend and I think it’s here to stay. I think hopefully it will share with other trends and we won’t all be doing one thing – like charm bracelets. The whole thing is making it more sophisticated without making it intimidating. It really is kind of hippy luxury.”

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Retailers have been vying to get a unique bite at the friendship bracelet cherry and Monica Vinader has worked with retailers such as Steffans, Net-a-Porter and Liberty to create exclusive lines for the stores.

“We’ve done the exclusive collection with Net-a-Porter, which is doing really well, and we’ve an exclusive with Steffans,” explains Vinader. “I had an email today that they are getting a lot of orders because someone on YouTube was showing the bracelet.”

Hot Diamonds has also created a line of friendship bracelets and, like Monica Vinader, is working with its retail partners to test exclusive designs. The brand created an exclusive Sparkler friendship bracelet – a highly polished silver disc set with a diamond strung on a woven silk cord retailing at £45 – Steffans.

The exclusive line was a success with Steffans selling half the allocated stock within two days. Steffans owner Steff Suter said: “The popularity of the piece has taken us by surprise. I think one of the reasons it has been so popular is its excellent price point. You can buy a quality product that looks fantastic without breaking the bank.”

Jewellery brand Daisy has created a range of friendship bracelets with a spiritual twist. Daisy co-creative director James Boyd says that the Chakras collection, which made its debut at IJL in September, is starting to take off with stores such as Harrods and Fenwicks buying into the range.

The Chakras collection is inspired by the theory that the body contains seven force centres or whorls of energy, known as chakras. Daisy has created a series of seven bracelets dedicated to the chakras with an 18ct gold disc strung on coloured material bands that range in retail price from £175 to £325.

Like Monica Vinader’s Fiji bracelets, which are branded with names such as Prosperity, Courage and Peace, Boyd believes that the Chakras collection straddles two trends: friendship bracelets and the trend for health and wellness. “No one has taken the health and wellness trend to the consumer market in the jewellery industry,” says Boyd. “It’s got a huge celebrity appeal, they love something spiritual.”

Back at Monica Vinader the brand is planning to move the trend forward by continually reinventing the friendship bracelet. The brand has just created mini and metallic collections of its Fiji friendship bracelet and is planning more innovation for 2011.

“The real issue is not about making the friendship bracelets smaller or more delicate it’s what we are going to do with them,” says Vinader. “I will probably come up with a new design very soon. I think the best idea is to keep reinventing and coming up with new ideas for them, I don’t want to do millions of versions of the same thing. I do think the whole concept of friendship is strong, it’s huge in the States – loads of brands are doing it – and the States does lead.”

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