By Brecken Branstrator
Jewelry designer Deirdre Featherstone at “From Gemstone to Creation,” an exhibition at Bergdorf Goodman originally set up for New York City Jewelry Week but extended through the holidays.
Conversations about retail and selling today inevitably turn to the topic of offering “an experience.”

Based on the success of their New York City Jewelry Week exhibition at Bergdorf Goodman, I’d say the team at Featherstone Design has the concept down pat.

Originally intended to run just for New York City Jewelry Week but extended through the holidays, “From Gemstone to Creation” gives shoppers not only a peek at Featherstone’s jewelry but also from start to finish.

Designer Deirdre Featherstone already sells her jewelry at the luxe department store—representing her first and only wholesale account—with a case on the floor of the Jewelry Salon.

For Jewelry Week, she also had an exhibition open to the public in the Salon’s private viewing room.

I went up to Midtown Manhattan to see it for myself and celebrate with the Featherstone team one evening, and they were swamped.

Every time I peeked into the private salon, there were people browsing and engaging Deirdre with questions and comments.

Shortly after, the team announced the exhibition had been such a hit that they planned to keep it up through the holidays.

Wanting to get the full experience and talk to them about why it worked so well, I returned to Bergdorf one afternoon last week.

I wasn’t surprised to hear the department store wanted to keep it open longer—the Featherstone team is fantastic at communicating who they are as a brand, and anyone who has met Deirdre knows how captivating, talented and hilarious she is.

As Featherstone Director of Marketing and Communication Jill Licata aptly put it during my visit, she’s a “heat-seeking missile” when she’s present at Bergdorf.

But to get that first-hand experience of the exhibition was to understand exactly what kind of “experience” consumers want when they’re shopping, especially when it comes to luxury.

The case on the floor of the salon had several new pieces to showcase her current work in color.

There also was a set of loose colored stones on display, meant to start a conversation and provide a bridge to the private salon and archival pieces in the back.

20191219 Deirdre insert 1The cases in the exhibition aimed to show what was possible for a client who might want to custom design a jewel, as well as what goes into the process of making a piece. The case pictured here was part of a focus on opals.

From there, visitors move into the private salon, usually reserved for Bergdorf’s top clients, to get an expanded look at the brand.

The project was Jill’s brainchild, according to Deirdre, but beautifully executed by the whole team.

The concept for NYC Jewelry Week was to teach people what the Featherstone team does in their studio downtown—to communicate how all their jewelry is made in New York, how they’re known for color and convertibility, etc.

They decided to tell that story, “by creating a little uptown experience that is our downtown lifestyle,” Jill succinctly put it.

Based on the crowds they’ve had, people want to know that story.

“It makes you care even more about the pieces, about the work,” Jill said.

The journey through the private salon starts with awards Featherstone has won and displays spectacular loose colored stones.

There are several windows, in fact, with loose stones and illustrations of what Deirdre would do with them—beautifully executed by Remy Rotenier—to help ignite imaginations.

They also have a few “party tricks,” as Deirdre called them, to help talk about their work with platinum.

One allows visitors to hold a solid platinum cuff in one hand and a silver cuff in the other so they can feel the weight difference. Another is a box of scarab models in various metals that show the color of platinum as compared with other metals.

There’s also a window of sapphires in various colors to showcase the range the corundum provides as well as a bracelet full of tanzanite—rough and faceted, heated and unheated—to tell that story.

Each one of the cases starts a conversation and leads shoppers down a path to discovery and understanding.

Imagine: a case featuring three of 19 models that went into the creation of one link bracelet, allowing the brand to talk about the time and work that goes into making sure it’s the right length and moves OK, let alone a million other tiny details.

Suddenly, the consumer has a much clearer picture of the quality of materials and the work that goes into Featherstone’s jewelry.

20191219 Deirdre insert 2A shot of the exhibition once it moved out on to the main sales floor in the Jewelry Salon at Bergdorf GoodmanFor a creator like Deirdre, an exhibition like this is empowering, she said, because people like her always get asked why they do things a certain way. And here was a whole room allowing her to explain why.

It also gives her ownership over her jewels.

During Jewelry Week, the exhibition provided shoppers a no-pressure setting to discover these things, and Deirdre and Jill said they got crowds of all kinds throughout the week—from serious collectors to students to jewelry enthusiasts.

“You get entrée into that [VIP] room just because you love jewelry and you want to learn something more,” Jill said.

The exhibition recently moved out onto the main floor, taking up a full wall and case line in the Jewelry Salon.

The Featherstone team has continued to get a strong response to the exhibition throughout, which they use to provide a luxury client experience.

They’ve also, importantly, sold some jewelry.

Jill said while people enjoyed the luxurious “reveal” of the VIP room, there seems to be an element of surprise and “independent discovery” now that it’s in a public space, attracting a new audience.

And the response to the overall exhibition is the same—clients love being included in the process on a tangible level.

It’s exactly the kind of experience we should want everyone to have with fine jewelry.

“How many times have you gone to some fantastic exhibit and you come out and you’re informed and you know something and you see differently?” Deirdre asked.

“That’s what I want people to do, is see differently.”

TAGS:   Marketing
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