The first physical jewelry show in Europe was, to put it mildly, a HUGE success. I want to share with you the three things that stood out to me on this show. The following blogs will be more about trends for the upcoming season(s) but first, let's talk about this fantastic show.
Ok, so when I first learned about the physical edition of the show, I was feeling both excited and slightly worried. Traveling doesn't just feel that 'normal' anymore, right?
But the excitement of going took over big time, and off I went on Friday the 10th from Schiphol airport to Venice.
The joy of finding my peers both in the taxi and later more of them in the hotel was lovely. You suddenly realize how alone we all have been, working on our own tiny islands in our homes or offices. It never hit me much during the various lockdowns, as we are an international bunch, we don't see each other much outside multiple tradeshows. But it was the first glimpse of what would amaze me the next day even more.
There is a lot to tell about the show, but let's pick out three things that really stood out!
When I entered the show floor on Saturday the 11th of September, it felt emotional. And I know myself all too well; I can get emotional about many things. But I never experienced it at a jewelry show. Yet, here I was, and as I walked towards the very first booth, which happened to be the Fabergé booth, I felt so conscious about my steps, my surroundings, the people, and the jewelry itself.
As the day went by, I noticed that the feeling, the emotional vibe, was just about everywhere. Even those on stage mentioned that they too felt emotional.
During one of the speeches on stage, Gaetano Cavalieri reminded us also about what happened 20 years ago; the terrible attacks of 9-11. These attacks occurred during the show, and if I remember well, the show closed earlier as many felt shocked or wanted to fly home as soon as possible.
This time, the emotion was about seeing each other again. And I think we all realized how much the human connection counts. Also, we often call jewelry tangible emotions. The story of the designer, and the story of those who purchase or wear the jewelry, give jewelry that emotional meaning. For us, those who have worked for many years in this jewelry industry, seeing and touching jewelry still provides us a thrill. When we spot something beautiful, something new, or when we are moved by the story behind the brand or designs. We feel thrilled, excited, dare I say, enchanted. We need to see each other and the jewelry we sell, talk about or buy, in real life. It's that clear.
The live (and broadcasted, check out the YouTube Channel of VicenzaOro) and much-appreciated talk by Paola de Luca, on stage with her panelists, touched that same vibe. The title said it all: Re. Humanization.
Paola tries to make her audience understand that the future is circular. To keep a balanced healthy planet and a future for humanity, we need to know how resources should be more carefully treated. Upcycling, recycling, storytelling about the provenance of the gold (fair mined, recycled), and the stones (f.e. re-use stones from old jewelry) are now still a niche where especially young brands seem to stand out. Her warning is subtle but shouldn't be missed: the future is inclusive, with a circular economy and utter respect for resources, people, and the planet.
Fortunately, both CIBJO (World Jewellery Confederation) and the RJC ( Responsible Jewellery Council) go to great lengths to get that message across.
For example, we should not wait and see whether the consumer will ask about the origin or ethical conditions for extracting the raw materials. On its website, the RJC has made a handy toolkit available for jewelers to use when talking about this subject.
Like the rise of social media and many other things, processes have a flywheel reaction. Slowly at first, it trickles into our industry, but it can go very fast.
Of course, the focus of several "talks" about sustainability and inclusivity helped. You cannot walk away without feeling its influence. And I personally noticed that I increasingly look at the different brands through these glasses. A kind warning to all brands, jewelry manufacturers, and gemstone professionals; do get on the sustainability train in time!
I notice that I am already listening with a sort of filter in mind. I somewhat poll companies about their attitude towards, for example, inclusivity. Or how they think about women in the industry.
It hasn't been that long since the show was primarily male-dominated. There were, of course, also many women at work. But women also paraded like beautiful show ponies around the halls, doing nothing else than modeling the jewelry. Women who expressed that it bothered them were considered jealous and bitter.
It almost sounds perverse or obscene now, but professional women were also regularly taken less seriously. Let alone women of other ethnicities. The tipping point has already passed; we are really moving and evolving in the right direction. Yet, the jewelry industry feels more needs to be done, hence the onstage presentation about the Gender Equality Report.
Sustainability is of paramount importance, and although there is a lot of talk about it, I think that brands and jewelers are still struggling with the concept of becoming sustainable. Luckily, there are is much information, help, and many toolkits available. (Check with your national industry organization, the CIBJO, or contact the RJC)
There was a kind of togetherness and equality in this show. This was perhaps emphasized by the new open planning of the booths. The much simpler booths made contact more pleasant and created fewer barriers between people inside and outside such a booth. But the respect I felt in people went a little deeper. If I philosophized for a moment, I would suggest that we feel that everyone plays their part and that we are dependent on each other. I, present at this fair as press and a blogger, am nothing without the stories of the manufacturers, brands, and the fair organization itself. They also need me, my peers, and others; we all play a part in the same game. Funnily enough, a treasured jeweler from the Netherlands told me the same thing; that she felt equal respect for everyone and with everyone and that it moved her. There you have that feeling of emotion again!
There was also respect for the exhibition organization itself. Whoever I spoke to, praise was given to the people of the IEG who have worked extremely hard to make this possible.
And Marco Carniello, Global Director of Fashion and Jewellery for the IEG, expressed at his turn his gratitude and respect for the exhibitors. Who took a leap of faith with him and his team.
Nothing is taken for granted anymore. So it seems. We were all put through the mill. The result is not taking things for granted and express gratitude and appreciation. I see you, you see me.
Of course, there was also respect for everyone's health. The strict measures, wearing a mouth cap, the testing possibilities right in front of the entrance made us feel that these were not empty words; safety first.
During the midsts of the lockdowns, no one knew how we would come out of it as an industry. But the signs have been primarily positive. In my own country (the Netherlands), it reached even the news apps; people buy more clothes and more jewelry.
Maybe this isn't true everywhere, but many have spent more minor over the past 1,5 years and now put their money into something valuable.
Whatever the case is, there is plenty of reason to believe there is hope for the jewelry industry. During the days spent on VicenzaOro, I could feel this hope. So many booths were filled with a buying audience. Many had found, during the pandemic, new ways to interact with their clients, either B2b or B2c. Investing time and money into new technologies. T.Gold, the international jewelry technology show, held in the same building this time as VicenzaOro itself, might have felt too.
The show offers the visitors inspiration on new ideas for packaging, delivery, interaction with clients worldwide. New technologies to meet the demand of the consumer today and tomorrow. More personalization in any possible way.
The show felt like the right Kick-off party to launch the new era for jewelry and the industry. With an evolved set of values, energy, and lots of fabulous jewelry!
I will share the trends I have seen and expect for the upcoming season in the next blog!
NB. Images credit VicenzaOro and Esther Ligthart-Bizzita.com