What’s next for London Jewellery Week?

We reflect on the highs and lows of LJW 2011 and how it will evolve.

It was a glittering week of new collection launches, catwalk shows, buying events and toasts to the industry – but did London Jewellery Week live up to the expectations of the industry and how does it intend to evolve? Professional Jeweller reports.

London Jewellery Week (LJW) 2011 was the biggest and most successful to date with a packed schedule of collection launches, parties, catwalk shows and exhibitions.

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The organisers have been working hard to expand the event and to encourage the trade to get behind the annual jewellery celebrations. One of the newest additions to LJW was the launch of a trade-only day at Treasure, which received positive feedback from the industry.

Val Trotter of jewellery retailer Pebbles in Edinburgh travelled down to London from Scotland and says she was glad she did. “Treasure was an absolute treasure,” she says. “It was lovely to catch up with designers whose work we already stock and to meet a few new ones whose work we look forward to showcasing in Edinburgh very soon.”

Trotter went on to say that despite some disappointments with LJW – “We travelled down for the weekend and headed to JewelEast on the Saturday only to find that there was nothing there and when we returned on the Sunday we were very disappointed to see the number of empty stalls” – she says that she plans to return for the Treasure trade day next year.

This year Treasure teamed up with The Jewellery Show organiser Emap to create a dedicated trade-only area called The Jewellery Show Salon, but this flopped due to what it says was an insufficient amount of time available to organise it properly. Despite the failure of the Salon, Emap stayed involved with Treasure and promoted the event heavily to its database of retail buyers, something that did the trick according to jeweller and Treasure exhibitor Cindy Dennis Mangan.

“The trade day was the busiest out of the four,” says Dennis Mangan. “It was great for me because I’ve never done The Jewellery Show and there were lots of people that I had never met before.”

The Jewellery Show event director Julie Driscoll branded the trade element of Treasure a success and said that the event was attended by “hundreds of the UK’s most influential jewellery buyers”.

Both Driscoll and LJW managing director Della Tinsley have confirmed that the trade day at Treasure will be back next year, and each praised the involvement of trade bodies in bringing retailers to LJW.

But it is the trade-focused nature of LJW that has ignited the most criticism. While a good proportion of the trade got involved with LJW in some way, there are those who feel that the week lacked glamour and failed to attract enough attention from the all-important consumers.

The aim of LJW has long been to mirror the success of London Fashion Week – though LJW managing director Della Tinsley points out that what she’s after is a harmonious mix of LFW and the London Design Show – but in terms of scale and prominence there is still a long way to go.

While London Fashion Week generates front page headlines and attracts enough celebrities to fill a year’s worth of gossip pages, LJW is yet to create a similar level of buzz. In 2008, when LJW was still supported by Coutts, stars showing up at events included Jamie Winstone, Tracey Emin and Tara Palmer Tompkinson, to name but a few, but apart from Alexander Davis and Amber Atherton’s Monsoon Palace collection launch, which was studded with a number of stars including US actress Mischa Barton, there was not a celebrity in sight.

“I went to the opening and thought it wasn’t very glamorous,” says London jeweller and LJW ambassador Dinny Hall. “Where were the people worth photographing? Where were the models? Where was OK magazine? You go to a fashion event and everything is polished, you force a few celebs to come and you get snaps in the back of OK.”

Luxury investor John Ayton, who runs Sloane Square jeweller Annoushka and has a hand in a number of other businesses including Boticca and Bremont, has echoed the opinion of Hall and says that it was the notable absence of the Bond Street jewellers that let the week down. While Boodles has been involved in LJW, the likes of Garrard and Asprey have kept their distance.

“The directors have done a fantastic job on limited resources but sadly it doesn’t have the support that one would hope for from the Bond Street jewellers,” says Ayton. “What should be done is to get these jewellers involved in discussions at an early stage to see what kind of event would suit them and tailor it around them.”

Ayton expressed his disappointment that the Street Lights event that paired Bond Street jewellers with students for a project orchestrated by Vogue jewellery editor Carol Woolton was held a month before LJW rather than during it. “That would have been a wonderful thing to incorporate into London Jewellery Week,” says Ayton. “It was a terrific idea and just the thing to bring in the Bond Street jewellers.”

The lack of celebrity and Bond Street jewellers is not something that has gone unnoticed by Tinsley and she says the LJW team are working hard to address these issues. “Bond Street is very much a work in progress,” she explains. “The Street Lights project was done at that time due to Vogue’s deadlines, but since then the retailers have thought ‘hey maybe we can do something like this during London Jewellery Week.’ They are not going to come in half hearted, they are going to want to make a big splash and we need to make sure that we have the kind of event that they want to work with.”

As for the lack of famous faces, Tinsley said it was not for want of trying and that it is up to everyone involved in LJW to pull out their little black books. “We are still very young on the social calendar and it is something that will come,” she says. “I know it is important to some. If the feedback was that there were no buyers or no press there then I would worry, but it’s not. We are a small team and we prioritise what we feel the trade needs.”

Despite any grumbles with the running of LJW, Tinsley’s work on the project has been universally praised. The team that works full time on LJW is unfathomably tiny but the task at hand is absolutely huge. So will the team expand any time soon?

“We do want to expand but we need to bring in more funds,” says Tinsley. After losing financial backing from the London Development Agency, LJW has been run on sponsorship revenues and membership fees. Tinsley says she is hoping to attract more sponsors to invest in the event as it grows and is busy sniffing out any potential public funding or grants and apply for them on behalf of the week.

Growing the event is another challenge that the directors face. At the moment the event is very much London centric with the majority of events happening within the city. One reason for this is that at present LJW has a minimum fee to use the London Jewellery Week logo or name, thought to be around £500.

Ian Middleton has two jewellery shops, one in London’s Covent Garden and one in Oxford, called Argenteus. He was involved with LJW in 2010 but decided to skip 2011 and says that the costs involved were a major factor. “I think Della did a wonderful job but I don’t think we got a lot for our money,” he says. “We got a mention on the website and we had a party but the people who came were mostly our existing customers. I don’t think the event has a high enough profile. It will evolve and grow but it isn’t there yet.”

The financial barrier to jewellers outside London being involved is a serious issue as the money required to be able to say you are involved is substantial when you don’t have the footfall those within London do.
Middleton says that if the basic entry price were lowered to, say, £100 then he would be happy for his Oxford store to be involved as he would be contributing to the ongoing success of LJW without having to invest in something that he can’t fully justify.

Funnily enough, £100 is the figure that Tinsley plucks out of the air too. She says she is aware that a sliding scale for involvement and financial costs is needed and she hopes to introduce an affordable entry level option by next year.

LJW has come a long way since Coutts severed ties with it and it was taken over by the current board of directors. There are obviously some areas for improvement but the LJW team is embracing them and endeavouring to change the week accordingly. This year’s week was the most successful to date and no doubt next year will be much improved again, so while LJW still has a long way to go before it is on a par with the 25-year-old London Fashion Week, look what it has achieved in four years and imagine the possibilities of what it can become if the industry really pulls together to promote the British jewellery trade, be that in London, Liverpool or Lanarkshire.

 

This article was taken from the July 2011 issue of Professional Jeweller magazine. See the whole edition by clicking here.

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