“Literally everybody is into big statement earrings.” That’s the definitive statement from Carol Woolton, jewelry editor for British Vogue. From high-end to fast-fashion, many brands are producing massive ear jewelry to target a new audience of customers.
It’s a trend borne in part out of selfie culture, vlogging and the focus on the face that happens when social media is a key medium of interaction.
Millennial audiences seem to respond enthusiastically to the statement earring trend. It’s a way to look unique but pairs well with their otherwise dress-down style. It’s also a way to jazz up the most visible part of the body when a lot of social interactions happen neck-up, via video messaging and selfies.
It’s also part of a wider trend towards jewelry – once a fairly timeless accessory – becoming much more influenced by fashion trends. Earring trends have moved very quickly from catwalk to pavement, via the red carpet and celebrity champions of the trend.
It’s led to an explosion of demand for higher-impact earrings in fast-changing styles. There’s a lot of opportunity for designers recognizing these emerging trends and meeting this demand.
New earring trends
There are other trends afoot in the earring market besides gigantism. Designers have been working to bring trends such as single earrings and high-end body jewelry into the mainstream.
Maria Tash has popularised the concept of scattering piercings all over the ear and making multiple ear piercings a luxe proposition. Her concession in London’s high-end department store, Liberty, is doing a roaring trade not only in body piercing but in supplying jewelry for all parts of the body.
Earrings are generally a dominant category of jewellery. Delfina Delettrez attributes 40% of her fine jewellery sales to earrings and specialises in the single statement earring. Hers is a more lightweight style but it’s still fashion-forward and high-impact. It’s all part of the trend towards the earring being a statement in itself, rather than merely complementing the look.
It’s very much a mainstream trend, and social media culture is creating opportunities for new and unknown designers to reach a new audience. That’s why social media is so influential in the jewelry market – it’s not just influencing styles but also promoting one category above all others.
Demi-fine on the rise
Earring trends such as gigantism, mismatched pairs, and singles, are being deftly picked up by the rising demi-fine brands that are doing so well at present. Operating in the space between fine and costume jewelry, and using crystals and gold-plating rather than precious stones and solid metals, the mid-priced brands are thought to be growing at a healthy rate of about 6% annually.
They’re thriving on sites such as Net-a-Porter where demi-fine items tend to be brought by women for themselves.
In the UK, demi-fine brands include ones such as Tada and Toy and Alighieri, where the prices tend to be in the low hundreds. These are pieces for semi-regular wearing rather than for special occasions. It’s aspirational but not unobtainable.
The demi-fine market is defined by some important trends, including the ability to mix-and-match items to create a really unique and personalised look. There’s also scope for themes such as sustainability and unusual materials.
It’s common for the buyer journey to start via social media sites such as Instagram. Demi-fine pieces can be strikingly unique – excellent for celebrating with a selfie. It’s a self-sustaining trend in the sense it both starts and ends in social media.
Online, the impact of this passion for earrings in any format has been considerable. The category has become so big now that many retailers are dividing it into very specific sub-categories.
Consumers are increasingly knowledgeable about the different types of earring style, so it’s easier to cater to them via named styles such as cluster, ear jackets and climbers.
The jewellery category is blissfully free from the sky-high return rates that dog online apparel sales. Far less jewellery is returned compared to other categories of wearables, partly because the sizing and fit aren’t so hard to get right and partly because it’s often purchased as a gift. That’s something that offers real relief for retailers trying to make a profit online.
Some jewelry industry sources claim bracelet sales are in decline, thanks to a number of factors. Perhaps the most important one is the fact we’re all spending a lot more time on keyboards, and that just isn’t compatible with wearing chunky bracelets.
Whether that’s true or not, the bracelet is certainly losing out compared to earrings. Bracelets don’t fit into selfies, they don’t get picked up as easily on the catwalk or in celebrity paparazzi shots and they don’t photograph as easily in magazines. As a result, earrings are stealing the attention.