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Ideas for Jewelry & Accessory Businesses

Archive for July, 2013...

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Straw hats seem to ring with a perceived value when you think of summer headwear.  But actually straw hats cover the whole range of value with crude palm straw on the lower end and Panama straws on the high end.




One very respected member of the straw hat family is Milan straws.  What ever happened to them?  Do they stillwholesale straw hats make straw hats in Milan?  Actually, according to Optimo Fine Hats, Milan was not the first place for manufacturing the hats we call Milan straws today.


A certain type of straw made these hats special and the soil was key to producing the straw.  First produced in England where they had the right mix of sandy soil, the hats were called “Dunstable twists”, deriving the name from the area


A few other countries had the right mix of soil and became producers of the hat, but eventually China produced the lions share.  During the Korean War, the US placed embargoes on Chinese products so Milan  imported the hats, marked them “Made in Italy”, and shipped them to the US.  Some believe this was the origin of the name “Milan straws”.  Optimo Hats says the origin was much earlier—in the 1800s when Britain imported the first Chinese hats, which were then called “Milans”.


The quality and feel of a Milan straw was superb, and may be unmatched today with the rare exceptions like the top quality Milan straws from Optimo Hats.  However, the process of weaving narrow strips of wheat straw and continually sewing them to make a hat continues, creating wholesale straw hats that have a wonderful boutique quality, even if they don’t compare with original Milan straws.



Today if you shop the hat selections of major discounters, you will see rush straw hats and toyo, but no braid-and–sewn straw hats.  Twenty years ago, these hats were in the discounter’s selection.  At this same time, these wholesale straw hats were selling between $4 and $7 at Accessory Wholesale.  What changed?


It was more than inflation.  The craftsmen in China that weaved the straw were aging and younger workers pursued fields that are more technical so the skilled labor force shrank.  The price of the hats continually rose and braid-and-sewn wheat straw hats disappeared from the racks of discounters.  These straw hats regained the respect due to such classy construction and again became headwear proudly displayed by upscale boutiques.



boutique style straw hatFor retailers, these wholesale straw hats fill lots of needs.  They come in a range of styles and come in a few colors.  One wholesale straw hat with 5 ½ inch wide brim that turns up at the edge is an ideal boutique hat.  Classic contrast of black grosgrain trim against the light color of wheat straw is eye-catching.  The grosgrain edges the brim and provides band and bow.



straw red hats

The classic kettle shape in straw hats comes in natural color as well as red for your customers that love their red hats.  Simplicity is in order here, with a 4 inch turned-up brim and black grosgrain band and bow.

ladies straw hat with brim down

Your customers that prefer a brim down look, will find their style in a wholesale straw hat shaped with a C indention in the crown and a 4 ½ inch brim angling down.  Again, the wheat straw hat has black grosgrain band and bow for trim.


gondolier hat

For customers that want the unusual in headwear, braid-and-sewn gondoliers offer the look of Venice Italy with a classic burgundy and navy band and bow.  What could be more classic than hats like the gondoliers wear on the canals of Venice with their flat crowns and 4 inch brims?

straw boater hat

For customers that like vintage inspired headwear, two wholesale straw hats deliver the turn-of-the-century look.  As the 1900s began, the boater was the leading headwear for men.  Every time election season comes around, the hat returns.  The braid-and-sewn wheat straw boaters have a firm body and classic burgundy and navy grosgrain trim.

straw boater

The other major hat style at the beginning of the 1900s was the derby, also called bowlers.  Wheat straw delivers the hat with rounded sturdy crown and 2 ½ inch brim that flips up all the way around.  The same classic burgundy and navy grosgrain band trims the hat with a bow on the side.

ladies classic straw hat

The newest wholesale straw hat in braid-and-sewn wheat is a lampshade that brings back memories of Audrey Hepburn.  The shape has a slightly domed flat crown and 3 inch rolled down brim.  Black grosgrain edges the brim and provides a band and bow.



Going to High Fashion Straw Hats on the website, you see a braid–and-sewn wheat straw hat for $27.00.  What makes this hat so expensive compared to the others?  The answer is narrower straw fibers are braided into narrower strips and sewn so a close look at the hat shows a much finer weave and construction.  To do this requires considerably more weaved straw material and labor.  Today hat don’t achieve the quality of Milan straws from decades ago, but this finished product begins to close the gap.  This is definitely and upscale boutique look in straw hats.


Most of these wholesale straw hats are affordable for the majority of shops and add classic design that many of your stylish customers are looking for, so mix some in with your millinery selection.  You will not only have stunning summer hats, but a story to tell with them.

Comments (0) Posted by Michael Gietl on Friday, July 19th, 2013

Filed under Fashion Accessories
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Tourist destinations are having their Christmas right now.  Beach locations are doing just fine.  But nearly all other small businesses in the fashion industry are in the summer doldrums.  Well here’s an idea that can get you excited!  A travel down some trails of niche markets can open opportunities never explored before.  This can get some creative engines humming.  And the result is new energy to lift those summer sales figures.



What do we mean by niche markets?  When we talk about fashion jewelry, we are talking about a broad market.  A market so broad that many retailers may think the fashion jewelry market isn’t any good anymore.  But when you ask what about glass jewelry, or fleur-de-lis jewelry, or gemstone jewelry, or theme pendants—the answer will be this one is good or that one, or maybe all of them.  They are all niche markets—small markets under the larger umbrella of fashion jewelry.

Next let’s imagine we have a booth at a flea market or festival and we are going to load the booth with one type of item—one niche market.  When you look at successful booths at flea markets, festivals, or similar summer events, that what they do—they make a statement with one niche market.



In accessories, theme neckties are a niche market.  I have seen shops built entirely on this product.  The wholeAmerican flag ties shop is theme neckties.  There is no question that women have a ton of ways to express themselves with jewelry and accessories.  But if guys want to broadcast their interests, they are pretty much limited to ball caps and tee shirts.  What about all the guys that are not tee-shirt/ball-cap type of guys?  What about the guy that has to put on a suit for his job everyday?  Or what about gifts for these guys?


Anyone that remembers Christmas in the sixties knows the stereotype gift for Dad was a tie.  Maybe all those electronic gadgets and tools advertised on TV have stolen the show at Christmas, but now there’s a new twist to the necktie business—theme ties.  And this gets to the point of how guys can express their interests.


Novelty ties cover a range of themes including occupations, sports, recreation, pets, gaming, and local themes.  But some ties on the site have their own category and that is because they are particularly strong.  These include American flag ties, religious ties, Masonic ties, and solid color ties.


solid color tiesThe first three groups are important for convention vendors.  Every year there’s tons of conventions for veterans, churches, and Masonic organizations.  Ties in theses themes move in quantity.  Gift shops also benefit in any city that is a convention destination.  Gift shops in cities that the convention goers hail from benefit as well.   And that booth or shop specializing in neckties will always sell a fair share of these themes.


The final category—solid color ties—suits many organizations, special events, schools, and work uniforms.  Visit the mall and you will see how scarce solid color ties are.  The people needing ties in certain colors have no choice.  It’s a need.



If I were setting up the booth, gemstone jewelry would be my product. Gemstone has everything—color, unique banding and inclusions, design, and stories to tell.  Someone’s objection might be gemstone peaked a few years ago.  My answer is gemstone is timeless.  It was here before it was a rage and it is still in the showcases of upscale department stores like Dillard’s and Macy’s after the rage.


A booth of this stuff will show color for every outfit and every possible design from small heart necklaces forSemi Precious heart necklace younger shoppers to statement pieces for the fashionable.  Gemstone has an intrinsic value the customer recognizes even though wholesale gemstone jewelry has pricing comparable to fashion jewelry.


agate necklace setAgates, jasper, carnelian, tiger’s eye, rose quartz, coral, turquoise—a booth can show 50 to 100 different stones made into jewelry and each one has story with it.  Especially at indoor shows, the customer can touch the semi precious jewelry and experience its cold feel.  Jasper, agate, and stones in the quartz family are mostly 7 on the Mohs scale, which means they are harder than glass or steel.  You won’t scratch them with a knife.


A loop or magnifying glass lets shoppers see the inclusions in semi precious stones like carnelian, rose quartz, aventurine, or rutilated quartz.  The inclusions are unique to each piece and will fascinate your customer.  Banding in agate or carnelian adds another interesting feature.


Stones like amethyst that shoppers thought would cost a fortune are available in bracelets and large statementamethyst bracelet necklaces that can be retailer under $20.  A booth full of semi precious jewelry will draw customers like a museum exhibit.  And people in your booth are sure to draw even more people.



The most practical accessory at hot outdoor events is hats.  People just can’t walk by hats.  They have to stop and try them on.  Some can wear a hat so naturally while others are self conscious about whether it looks good.  Have a variety and help the customer, encouraging them when the hat suits them.


wide brim ladies hatHats have something for every age group.  Younger shoppers are into fedoras, cabbies, duckbills, and ball caps.  The fashionable ladies like wide brims and kettle shapes with a brim flipped up all the way around.


Guys like fedoras also.  Straw gamblers and safari hats are popular with them and we can’t forget cowboy hats that are timeless headwear.


In cowboy hats, distressed coloring has been a leading choice for the last several years.  These are hats inDistressed cowboy hat natural straw color with darker staining that looks like the hat has been well-worn with perspiration marks.  Natural straws are equally as good.  These hats can have shapeable brims and a country look that goes great with a pickup truck or day at the beach.


cowgirl hats in colorsColor is good also, especially white, black, or brown cowboy hats.  For cowgirls, fashion colors have really taken off this year and last—colors like hot pink, lime, orange, yellow, and red.  Yes, cowgirl hats in these colors.


Hats are not only an accessory for expressing personality and looking good; they are practical relief in the beating sun.  This is a great niche market in accessories.



Anyone that attends many festivals, swap meets, or craft shows has seen booths full of glass jewelry.  And theyMurano style glass jewelry don’t give it away.  No, glass jewelry usually commands a high retail price, especially if the booth owner is making some of the pieces.  When the artist is working glass into a design with a torch, it is mesmerizing.  But not everyone has that talent.


Even without the artist and torch, a booth of glass jewelry is certain to attract attention.  For one thing, fashion jewelry in recent years seems to be void of color.  Bright colors that are in the seasons’ fashion palettes are hard to find in fashion jewelry.


Glass jewelry can fill the color niche very nicely.  Every color on the palette is available in glass jewelry and plenty of other colors as well.   Gorgeous designs in multicolor cover all bases and provide fun jewelry, especially in the summer.


Glass jewelry also has stories to tell.  The artistic center for creative glass work is Murano Italy.  Through the centuries, they have created Murano glass with suspended designs like clouds of color or islands of glimmering metal particles.  These glass creations are mesmerizing.


Millefiori also hails from Murano Italy.  It means “thousand flowers” and the glass is created by melting glass rods in different colors together and then slicing them.  The surface looks like numerous tiny flowers.


There is more.  Lampwork beads come from the area also.  Using a flame, melted glass creates designs in colorlampwork bead necklace set and shapes adhering to the outside of a bead.  These beads make intriguing bracelets and necklace sets.


Like gemstone, glass jewelry is full of interesting variety, color, and stories to tell.




How do you translate the idea of niche markets to your store without losing the punch?  Borrow a page from upscale department stores.  Look at their showcases.  They take one designer and dedicate a space to their jewelry with some information about the artist.  It makes a statement that draws attention.


Take a few niche markets and concentrate an area for each.  Add some information and decoration to tell a story.  This can be a powerful presentation that will intrigue your customers.  Maybe the niche markets we covered are not for you, but the idea can get creativity flowing to find the right idea.

Comments (0) Posted by Michael Gietl on Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Filed under Fashion Jewelry
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Vibrant color is making a statement on Pantone fashion palettes.  Not just this summer, but for three seasons in row.  Yes, even in the winter season.  So many of your customers might be asking, where is the bright color in fashion jewelry.

More than a decade ago China eclipsed American jewelry manufacturing with decent design and bargain prices.  But suddenly they seem to have run out of ideas.  They churn out a steady diet of plated jewelry at a time when bright color dominates trends.  They get caught up in an idea and every manufacturer in China follows it.  Think about it.  How many sideway cross bracelets and necklaces do we need?


Well here’s a breath of fresh air.  The Murano style glass jewelry that we almost forgot about is back.  And it is back withMurano style glass jewelry the rich color that trends are calling for.  In case you have forgot, Murano glass is an art hailing from Murano Italy, an Island off of Venice.  If you have seen jewelry with transparent glass beads revealing clouds of suspended color or metallic particles, this is Murano glass.




But there is more.  Lampwork beads that have melted glass in other colors and various shapes adhering to the bead—thislampwork bead necklace set is part of Murano glass also.  This art was popularized by Murano in the 1300s.  The lampwork bead necklace shown uses this kind of  bead.





Murano style jewelry with milefiore beadsYes, there is more—millefiore, a thousand flowers.  These beads have canes of glass melted together and then sliced revealing endless tiny flower patterns. If you wanted millefiore beads in the 1400s, there was only one place to get them.  Yes, Murano Italy.






So much art and beauty!  How can we forget Murano glass?  The bottom line is we can’t.  When the tragedy of 9/11 left the country in shock and trends turned to high quality and serious components in accessories, Murano style glass jewelry was there.


Now, when creativity is lost and color is woefully missing from the jewelry industry, Murano style glass jewelry resurfaces.  It brings rich color back to the market with its exceptional quality and artistry.  This is fashion jewelry any woman would be proud to wear or give as gift.



So when we study Pantone’s fashion palette for summer, we see 10 colors with a fair share of brights.  Murano style glass jewelry can deliver every color.  So if you are accessorizing last years outfit with this year’s look, Murano style glass jewelry adds the accessories that deliver this season’s colors.


Pantone’s lime color called tender shoots finds a striking match with the necklace setMurano style jewelry in lime color shown.  The tinted glass goes nicely with the color and the faceted disk beds have a swirl of suspended color that adds interest.




purple Murano style necklace setThe Dalmatian print Murano style necklace set comes in four colors including a set that captures hues in the purple family—colors ranging from purple to lavender.  The color here is an excellent representation of the lavender on the palette called African Violet.




Linen, an off-white with a very slight pinkish tint, is the neutral on the palette that will get the most use.  The Muranowhite Murano style necklace set style necklace that captures it is has oval faceted beds with suspended clouds of off-white color.


When browsing the Murano style glass jewelry, many items have as many as 3 or 4 color options.  These options include nearly every color on the palette.  And when all else fails, multicolor sets step up to deliver the hue.



Jewelry in colors is lost if accessorizing the same shade.  So we need to coordinate.  The palette provides plenty of options for that.  Look through Pantone’s report and you will see some designers pair the yellow called lemon zest with the lavender called African Violet.  Following this lead, the Murano style jewelry set in lavender shown above will make a stunning accessory with yellow.


If you pull up a color wheel on the internet, you will see this color combination exactly opposite each other.  Using the wheel, may surprise you with some of the opposites that can coordinate.


Almost anything will coordinate with the neutral off-white they call linen.  So using neutrals is easy.


But using two colors is trickier.  Many of the designers use hues of the same color like grayed jade and emerald.  In jewelry, you can coordinate apparel with a darker or lighter shade of the clothing color, for example, the royal blue necklace set goes well with apparel in the lighter dusk blue.


Looking at the color wheel again, colors on each side of the target color provide coordinates.  Color specialists call these analogous colors and they provide endless choices.


But to start, it takes jewelry with color and thanks to Murano style jewelry the color is back.

Comments (0) Posted by Michael Gietl on Thursday, July 4th, 2013