How brands are catering for today’s discerning male shopper.
The men’s jewellery market is a small sector compared with bridal, fashion and branded jewellery, but it has a growing number of serious players, creating carefully honed collections for a more discerning gentleman shopper. Kathryn Bishop takes a closer look at today’s men’s market and current design trends.
Whether you find yourself in London’s Stoke Newington, wandering down Bold Street in Liverpool or stopping for tea in Edinburgh’s Leith, you will no doubt be surrounded by dapper chaps, each dressing with their own style and confidence.
Look closer and chances are they will be adorned with natty accessories – and we’re not just talking leather bags or a smart pair of British-made Oxfords. A growing number of chaps are adding a final flourish to their outfits with lapel pins, tie bars and layered leather and cord bracelets. And they are not the only ones; as Professional Jeweller has discovered, whether the gent in question is a sporty type, a city suit wearer or weekday bricklayer, men are no longer cautious of the j-word, as jewellery becomes a simple, wearable way of saying “this is who I am”.
In a round-up of top selling men’s jewellery styles at both a retail and wholesale level, Professional Jeweller found that two clear trends have emerged in men’s jewellery: designs with an engineered or mechanical aesthetic, and stacking bracelets.
At British brand Tateossian, movement and function feature throughout its men’s collections. Its Gear collection and Tourbillon cufflinks –names that evoke the very style of the designs – have been particularly popular, with moving elements that create a talking point. Robert Tateossian, founder and director of the company, explains: “The mechanical collections have been a big success; movement and function have always been at the heart of Tateossian’s collections.”
North London jeweller Stephen Einhorn concurs, finding that designs combining interesting processes and substance have increasing appeal for male jewellery shoppers. At his boutique and studio in the well-heeled area of Islington, men gravitate towards the Geo collection. “All the Geo designs are riveted together using precious metal pins,” Einhorn explains. “They’re precision engineered, which is why I think men like them so much. Plus they look great.”
However, it isn’t only about interesting features on a piece of jewellery – the material is as important a selling point. According to Mark Ungar, owner of men’s jewellery e-commerce site Thorn Jewellery, one of its bestselling brands is German ringmaker Meister. Its collection features gent’s bands crafted in masculine metals such as titanium, with designs that can be twisted apart for alternative functions, creating miniature sundials or worldtimers.
Julian Exposito-Bader, men’s jewellery buyer at Amazon.co.uk, states that uncommon or alternative materials capture the attention of gents. “Guys like technical or unusual materials such as stingray and python, as well as small mechanical movements,” he notes. “So we are always looking to have pieces that fit those attributes.”
At Gecko, home of men’s brand Fred Bennett, male customers have become enamoured with mixing colours of metals. “The introduction of mixed plating for 2014 is working very well across many of our product areas, in particular within wristwear,” says Fred Bennett head of design Hannah Trickett. “Our Utilitarian cufflinks with gold, brown and rose PVD are flying off the shelves.”
With a view to bracelets, Tateossian asserts that stacking of men’s bracelets will be a key trend in 2014, with the brand’s new collections set to combine leather, diamonds and precious metals. Tateossian has also teamed with a number of men’s style bloggers to create a collection of bracelets that embody their personalities using mixed materials, gemstone beads and various metal finishes. Says Robert Tateossian: “A combination of the rock’n’roll look and men wearing rubber charity bracelets has evolved into something more fashionable and discreet in the form of leather bracelets and bead bracelets. In fact, we have recorded a 50% increase in sales of our bracelets over the past year and like all trends this is something that is constantly evolving.”
Andrew Warner splits his time between new men’s bracelet brand Anchor & Crew – founded by Warner and his family and created using British-made cord and silver anchor-shaped clasps – and the family’s retail store Identity the Jewellers. He says that men buying from the Anchor & Crew bracelet range are opting for lighter shades of cord colour such as grey and sky blue. From a retail point of a view, Warner says Identity’s biggest selling brands are Unique, Buddha to Buddha and Anchor & Crew. “These are the brands that are focusing on bracelets and, in particular, different bracelets to the usual curb chains,” he says. “With Unique for instance it is the leather bracelets that are the bestsellers.”
It is widely recognised that jewellery design can be slow off the mark when it comes to following fashion trends and so, with men having gained confidence in the fashion stakes – the rise of men’s fashion blogs, dedicated style magazines and fashion events, such as London Collections: Men prove just how lucrative this market is becoming – now is the time for men’s jewellery to make its mark and become a serious purchase for shoppers. But what can we expect from men’s design after the boom in bracelets and engineered jewels?
Anchor & Crew’s Warner believes that the advent of jewellery worn by men in fashion shoots or styled on mannequins in high street shops is pushing male shoppers to seek out something other than curb chains and plain, chunky rings. He explains: “Places like Topman and Burton have opened the younger audience up to the idea of differently designed jewellery, but they come to [fine jewellery] retailers when they want to spend a bit more or get better quality jewellery that is still fashion-driven.”
The team at Gecko believe men’s jewellery is headed down a casual path, with items designed as though they have been collected and layered up over a period of time. “Although [high street] styles still remain casual, we are seeing a shift with more men moving towards bolder colour, layering and longer lengths in necklaces,” explains Trickett. Her colleague Emily Newman, who also designs for Fred Bennett, notes that men are increasingly fashion conscious when it comes to wearing jewellery. “Previously the majority of men’s jewellery was purchased by others as gifts, but today our stockists have been reporting a rise in men self-purchasing jewellery and accessories, and generally becoming more experimental,” she explains. “This is great from a design point-of-view as it allows us to explore more adventurous avenues.”
From a retail point of view, Thorn Jewellery’s Ungar says that the future of the men’s jewellery market lies with designers continuing to diversify by using more precious and semi-precious stones. Indeed, men appear to be more confident when it comes to wearing coloured stones, something reflected in Stephen Einhorn’s collections featuring brightly-coloured gems such as malachite and lapis lazuli. As Einhorn explains: “I see men investing in higher-quality designs and valuing their jewellery more, in the same way women do; I believe they will also start to wear more pieces set with precious stones.”
At Tateossian, recent collections have responded to demand for higher-value metals and the most precious of stones – diamonds. “We have introduced new bracelet styles using white, champagne, black and blue diamonds in 18ct gold settings and also knotted into macramé bracelets,” explains Robert Tateossian. “Combining leather, diamonds and precious metals will be a huge trend for SS14 and we have some exquisite pieces that we are launching to support this.”
Indeed, precious metals, whether silver or gold, are part of a revival for traditional styles, with the team at Gecko reporting that silver is making a comeback. The signet ring has also made a return to the mainstream, as first reported in the November 2012 issue of Professional Jeweller, with little finger rings being worn in both a fashion sense and that of heraldry, with men seeking out designs that celebrate their family roots or have been passed down from one generation to the next.
Men’s accessories are also becoming realised in precious metals, with designs such as colourful inlaid tie bars and quirky silver lapel pins on the rise at Tateossian – think hedgehogs, ferns and floral designs. “They are a decorative way to style up a suit or blazer,” says Tateossian. “It’s a way for men to differentiate their style and be more of an individual.”
The males who grew up buying high street fashion jewellery forged from base metal, string and leather are the force behind this new era of shopper seeking greater value from their jewellery, and retailers should be ready to take the men’s jewellery sector more seriously. As Amazon buyer Exposito-Bader notes, men tend to spend more when purchasing jewellery, even if they purchase less frequently than women. “Therefore, pieces with higher price points do not represent a challenge [to men]”, he states.
So whether you have a burgeoning collection of men’s jewellery or are starting to research which brands and price points might best suit your customer, know that a wealth of gents are ready for you to catch their attention and adorn their outfits.
To view a gallery of fresh men’s jewellery, click here.
This feature was taken from the May issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue in full online, click here.