Vicenza, Italy. Sept. 11, 2020. Like many jewelry firms, family and business intertwine for the Ungarellis of Vendorafa: Augusto is the CEO, wife Daniela is the creative director (and daughter of company founder Vendorafa Lombardi), and daughter Francesca handles marketing and social media.
While they spent much time together—“We had the great luck of making the most of our house and garden, filling our spirit with beauty and being inspired to design,” says Augusto—they also checked in with other brands and friends.
“We talked often to others to both lend a shoulder of support and for when we needed one ourselves, making best efforts to stay positive,” he explains. “And it is with this same spirit of support and positivity that we have approached our industry and our community with this new start.”
Read on to learn more about the brand’s return to business at Vicenzaoro VOICE, Sept. 12–14.
Jennifer Heebner: What are your expectations for business at the fair?
Augusto Ungarelli: Business is always important but now we are more focused on our communications, our community, our factory, our industry, and continuing the legacy for our heritage of made in Italy excellence and with The Foundation Fondazione Mani Intelligenti to ensure that handcrafted Made in Italy leadership will continue.
At VOICE, we expect to see our current clients and book orders, but it is unknown in terms of projections and business expectations. We have never engaged in virtual presentations, but we are open to the new formats and possibilities to engage with the international jewelry community. In this way we may be able to showcase our brand to new buyers and stores or markets who have not previously been to see us in person.
But most of all, the message that we want to send is that we are active, productive, creative, and that we haven’t been hibernating at all; we have worked hard to be best prepared to start again—with a bang! Voice is an incredibly important moment because with the virtual talks, meetings, and sharing opportunities, we will listen to the industry and the buyers’ needs, which will then be translated into our product. We are as much artists as jewelry manufacturers, so the moments are to be able to communicate, inspire, and be inspired as well as to listen to the needs of our partners and clients.
JH: What does business in Italy look like now? Is it starting to pick up?
AU: International tourism is crucial for our industry, and unfortunately, that has been frozen for a while. But there are positive signals of reaction from our Italian market; the idea of “beautifully handcrafted” is alive and well! Our customers are always looking for quality, style, and an excellent level of quality manufacturing, and this is proper of the high-end jewelry segment. Business is more difficult, but we are prepared to work harder.
Our brand is turning 70 in 2021 and we have seen significant changes over this window of time in an industry that has transformed over centuries. We need to learn and to change and move into new and modern directions with marketing and communications, but we believe as an industry the connection to “Made in Italy” and the quality of fine handmade gold is everlasting.
JH: What are your U.S. accounts telling you now about business?
AU: Our U.S. accounts have activated all the available digital connections with the industry and any opportunity of online collaboration or contact available, this is unfortunately for now the only way to compensate for the impossibility of having a physical presence in stores.
Their clients are returning for appointments and viewings. This is slow and steady—limited and safe, of course, and within new parameters—but it is moving ahead. Slower overall, there are bright spots and selling opportunities. Most of our retail partners do have top collectors and loyal jewelry buyers who still want to mark occasions with jewelry and celebrate with new pieces. Gold is a high request, and while there is still a general hesitancy with the market, U.S. retailers are feeling more optimistic about the holiday season.
Americans in search of quality jewelry have always loved volume and surfaces with particular designs, precision production, and finishing of the gold that enhances the color and the feel. Vendorafa has always stood out with our unique gold features; our aesthetic research involves an in-depth study of shapes and volumes, which are the fundamental starting point to giving each single item of jewelry its own personality. These characteristics have always been recognized and loved globally and specifically in the United States.
JH: What kind of Christmas season are you expecting in Italy and in the U.S.?
AU: Obviously, Christmas season is usually a very good moment for our business, and given our current year, many variables have still to be taken into consideration before being able to make a prediction. Nevertheless, we are having promising feedback.
JH: Tell me about your newest jewelry collection.
AU: We have recently designed and created some new additions to our very well-known Buckle collection, which we are bringing back to the U.S. market. With 20 new SKUs and a retail price range from $4,000 to $20,000 USD, it will soon be in European and U.S. stores. We also had line extensions in some of our other collections.
Pebbles is our completely new 2020 collection. Pebbles introduces the concept of movements in materials in a very different way for our brand. We are combining gold with mother-of-pearl, tiger’s eye, and malachite in various shapes and directions. This collection, which also comes in gold-only pieces, offers both movements and transitions from gold to other materials. Pebbles includes choker and lariat-style necklaces, rings, earrings, and bracelets, all of which are meant to be worn singularly or in combinations of materials, mixed and matched. We have 12 pieces launching for the U.S. market as well as Europe and the Far East; these will be available after Voice for the holiday season, arriving in stores in October. Retail prices for Pebbles range from $3,000–$14,000.
Pebbles rings in 18k gold with Tigers Eye or Malachite, $3,200 apiece; email email@example.com for purchase
Pebbles Y necklace in 18k gold 18K gold with Mother of Pearl, $14,000; email firstname.lastname@example.org for purchase
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