From STAX to Damascus Steel: What Men Want
It is so great to put this interview on the calendar, as we have talked about doing this for a while now. Every time I walk by your jewelry at a trade show, without fail, your booth is packed. I feel like INOX Jewelry really understands the men’s market: what they want, how to update, and what millennial men are comfortable spending. Tell me about your personal jewelry style, and about how you began working with INOX?
Men want something that speaks to them, that gets them. Styles that have the versatility of being worn during the day with a nice shirt, and that dress down to a T-shirt at night while still looking great. More importantly they don’t want to break the bank getting it. They shop on impulse– a piece catches their eye and they want the instant gratification of getting it on the spot without too much thought, which is ideal because they are accessorizing more, getting more options to elevate their look, and will buy pieces to upgrade their wardrobe 2 or 3 times a year. It is comparable to buying shoes.
I started working with SalesOne (the company that owns INOX) over 12 years ago, repping its complete portfolio of brands at the beginning. But after my first jewelry trade show (Miami JIS), I was hooked on this industry. I loved the culture, the ability to build relationships, and how jewelry can be everything from an heirloom to a way to express your individuality. However, I quickly realized that there really weren’t many pieces out there that represented me as an individual, or would fit my personal style. I usually wear jeans, boots, and a rolled-up shirt. I’m not too keen on watches because I have a phone for that, and gold chains were never my thing. So, from that point on I made it my mission to grow the options for men and spread the ‘good word’ as I usually say. Chances are if you’ve passed by my booth you’ve heard me say, “You don’t sell men’s jewelry? What about the other half of the population?” It is something I’m passionate about and I think all of us here at INOX have done a good job delivering on. Now, I usually rock a leather and bead bracelet Stax and a mixed black/steel ring. I won’t take them off until an item from the newer collection comes out, like the Damascus bracelets, which I’m waiting for.
Describe the INOX man. What does he do? Why does he come to you? What is his day-to-night look? Who would you love to see wearing your pieces?
Imagine a male model–he’s got a sports car worth more than your average home and is probably working on buying his second Gulfstream. Everybody BUT that guy is the ideal INOX man. INOX is designed for the regular Joe; he is a young professional, a Dad. He works a 9-5 at a desk or does blue-collar work. He probably loves beer, grilling on the weekends, and DIY’ing everything in his home. I could go on with the stereotypes for hours, but in a nutshell, INOX is a collection of pieces that anybody can pick up and say, “This is cool, I can pull this off.” They gravitate to our products because they are not too ostentatious or flashy. They are just awesome accents that can elevate any attire. You can wear a bracelet with a suit jacket at work, yet switch out to a T-shirt and jeans for the night, and it still looks great. Men usually stumble upon us while shopping for their wife. They’ll buy a piece and come back for more. I’ve had the opportunity to come across consumers that rock our pieces on the street and it is pretty rewarding to see how much they like it. It’s great knowing that we’ve done right to the brotherhood of men.
Over the time you have worked for INOX, what has evolved the most in terms of the company’s aesthetic and brand direction?
Much has changed. When we first launched back in 2007, we designed for both women and men, and in the beginning our look was inspired by silver, as we were the alternative to precious metals that were through the roof back then. Over the years, we developed our unique look. We started introducing more PVD (Ion Plated Color) pieces, like Blue, Rose, Gun Metal and Red, and integrated more modern materials beyond the original Stainless Steel to the point that our line now looks nothing like what it did at the beginning. From time to time we go through our old catalogs and just get amazed at how much the overall aesthetic has evolved; it’s no longer stainless steel, it’s INOX and our consumers dig it. Also, about four years ago we made the decision to discontinue our Women’s line and fully devote ourselves to the Men’s category. There is enough representation out in the market for ladies, but in the men’s category, aside from staples like watches and a few terrific high-end brands, there really isn’t much to choose from. Yet, the demand from that part of the business kept growing, so taking that leap was a no-brainer.
Focusing ourselves into the one category has really given us the freedom to experiment, to drop the curator’s gloves if you will and really work on what most guys would like, on the message, the personality, and the look that men would react to without concerning ourselves with what the status quo of what the jewelry industry is, and you know what? It’s been great! A good example is our new display presentation for incase; we dropped the classic velvet and leatherette displays in lieu of rustic wood and gray linen. It was a risky move, because we all have an expectation as to what jewelry must look like in a store, which is tested and true for the Women’s market, but for guys? We needed to stand out, to show the consumer a piece was designed with their lifestyle’s in mind.
May is police month, and you mentioned that thin blue line jewelry is extremely popular. Why do you think that is, and what pieces standout in particular as gifts?
I think it is because as a country we are more grateful than ever of those that put their lives on the line for us, and our jewelry is a nice subtle way to show support on a daily basis. We’ve partnered up with our retailers to do appreciation events for their local Police precincts, and they really love it. You’ve seen it too, you can always find 2 or 3 security guys, who are usually part of law enforcement at our booth looking at pieces they really like for themselves. For me, that is ultimate validation. The pieces that make great gifts in this category are the carbon-infused blue bracelet, and the black and thin blue line cross.
INOX specializes in “masculine materials,” which your marketing materials list as steel, leather, wood, etc. Why do you think men are drawn to them? How has INOX updated these materials to appeal to fashion-forward men today?
Men are attracted to these materials because most of them may not necessarily be familiar with platinum or 18K white gold, but they recognize modern materials like steel and its durability properties, solid carbon fiber from their golf clubs, and high-performance parts in on a car, or even sunglasses. Other materials like wood, leather, and stone were historically what most men’s accessories were fabricated out of since the dawn of time. They are natural occurring and have an element of roughness and craftsmanship to them that men appreciate. What we have done to modernize the look for the fashion-forward man of today is add color with our PVD Ion plating process to add new dimensions of personality. We’ve also made matte and brushed finishes a standard for our line. Color is good, but it must be subtle…a mere accent.
Break down your top three hottest sellers for me. In terms of numbers, what can’t men get enough of where you are burning through the inventory?
Bracelets are without a doubt the category that moves the most, and within those you have specific items. The one that takes the prize though is our Gemini bracelet, it’s a style of bracelet with 2 faces, a different finish on each side so it gives men more options and it has tremendous value for the retailer. Secondly, I would have to say the Leather Station bracelets. They are 8mm thick woven leather chords with rugged steel beads and small color accents on them, and are probably the piece that is easiest for any man to start wearing in the men’s category. They match any attire. And to end, a special mention to the blue and the newly added red carbon bracelets–they are just amazing looking pieces and super comfortable to wear. I’d like to make a special mention to Stax; between all the variants they are still our strongest category.
Stax is a collection you had for a while, and it keeps growing with styles, as you mentioned never waning in popularity. For women, stacking rings have been a phenomenon, with designers creating collections that mix and match to add-on for more looks (and they’re great for birthdays, anniversaries etc.). Your STAX collection has a different take—the sets are already complete and ready to wear. Why did INOX chose this route for male customers—appealing with the stacking look by giving it to them ready-to-wear, yet without the option of mixing and matching? Do you find millennial men prefer the look, but without the choice?
Absolutely, we went that route because we knew that unlike the women, men would not stay in front of a counter picking and choosing to create their perfect leather and stone bead combination. It goes back to what I said before, they want an impulse buy and instant gratification. We took the guessing work out of it: here’s a box with the curated layered look that you want, no need to tinker. It was a simple premise; we had already been selling the individual components for years, but once we put them together, it took off beyond what we expected.
We can’t help but ask…what is next? Can you give is a preview of what is to come in Vegas, or next steps with the direction of your collections?
For JCK we are launching over a dozen new collections to keep bringing appealing options in the men’s category. Some highlights are: a full Damascus Steel line, Damascus has been very popular over the last couple of years in knives and other accessories for men, so we are bringing it in and giving it the INOX twist with unique designs and one-of-a-kind color accents. We are also officially introducing Dante, which is Red infused jewelry that took 3 years to develop; our retailers have been asking for it for years after Blue took off. Additionally, we are integrating more modern materials in our line, like Black Zirconium, which will be available in a full wedding band program, and Titanium, which we are utilizing in our new chain necklace collection…and much more! Come and see at booth #15135 at “The Bridge”; we are happy to get more people on the men’s jewelry bandwagon.
To learn more about INOX Jewelry, visit www.inox-us.com.