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COVID-19 shall pass, but these emerging trends will drive the industry ahead

Toronto-based jewellery designer and artist, Reena Ahluwalia. Photos courtesy Reena Ahluwalia
Toronto-based jewellery designer and artist, Reena Ahluwalia.
Photos courtesy Reena Ahluwalia

By Reena Ahluwalia

As I look out of my home studio window, the daffodils and tulips are blooming; the cardinals are singing. It’s spring. It’s also more than 12 weeks into the lockdown.

In end-February, I landed home in Toronto following an extensive visit to Asia. The day I flew from Thailand, the media was reporting on COVID-19 cases, so I self-isolated. Canada soon announced a country-wide lockdown. The world has been in crisis management-mode since.

Industry trends here to stay, post-COVID-19

The manner in which this pandemic is impacting global businesses and people, as well as shaping our mindscapes, is quite stunning—and it has all happened within a few months.

While topics of online platforms, digital/social media strategies, and webinars have been widely discussed and are of great importance, I would like to share my views on emerging cultural and consumer trends that will impact our business going forward.

Consumer behaviour

The COVID-19 crisis has taught us the value of things—and what is necessary versus discretionary. In lockdown mode, people tended to make use only of what they already had and what was essentially needed.

Will this mean individuals are moving away from over-consumption to meaningful consumption? Possibly; if you notice closely, this was already an emerging trend, which was only fuelled further because of the crisis. But what does this mean for the global jewellery industry, which relies on discretionary spending? One solution is to look for ways we can narrate jewellery with purpose-driven, meaningful consumption stories that appeal to consumers’ overall mental, physical, and financial well-being.

Nature and sustainability

I believe this crisis is sending a strong signal to humanity. As professionals in an industry closely linked nature’s bounty—metals, diamonds, and gemstones—we have to step up and refine our sustainability efforts to help prevent future climate catastrophe and the spread of deadly disease.

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The ‘Inner Brilliance’ spinning diamonds collection from ‘Coronet by Reena.’
The ‘Inner Brilliance’ spinning diamonds collection from ‘Coronet by Reena.’

For consumers, these issues are going to resurface once the crisis becomes more manageable. Can we, as an industry, urge action through meaningful engagement?

One of the most effective ways to tackle climate change is through purpose-led actions stemming from design thinking. People, including myself, care deeply about climate and connection to the natural world. I bike, and haven’t owned a car in decades; I reuse, recycle, and avoid waste; I am conscious of companies I buy from.

What we wear is a big part of our personal identity, and that’s why jewellery is so powerful: it lets us show who we are to the world.

Value, meaning, and purpose

Now more than ever, people crave a connection to who they are, what they love, and how they show it. Jewellery is about personal identity, celebration, and dreams. Because of this, consumers will return to jewellery in the post-pandemic world, but with a changed perspective. I believe we’ll see more shoppers looking for pieces with meaning, purpose, positivity, joy, and deep personal connection to who they are and what they value. This must be reflected in our jewellery designs; our pieces must showcase how wearing jewellery makes one feel.

My personal focus

Painted during the COVID-19 crisis, Reena Ahluwalia’s ‘LIT Series’ of diamond paintings are designed to celebrate the human spirit. (©Copyright)
Painted during the COVID-19 crisis, Reena Ahluwalia’s ‘LIT Series’ of diamond paintings are designed to celebrate the human spirit. (©Copyright)

Like most, my first concern when the pandemic hit was the safety of my family, my friends, my team, and those experiencing dire situations amid this crisis. I made early donations to some of the organizations I support. Looking back, this was timely.

Soon after, I began reorganizing my days and priorities to tackle the many challenges this lockdown has brought to my business. I am also advising a few emerging jewellery designers on how they can navigate this tough landscape as they enter the industry. I’m reading books on my ‘to read’ list, I’m cooking, and I’m exercising.

In this environment of digital overload, I am very careful of what I choose to watch, hear, and consume digitally—I call these my ‘essentials.’ Social isolation is difficult, so I’m constantly reminding myself to take care of my mental, physical, and spiritual self.

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Being a jewellery designer and artist, I am used to very long studio hours and creating in isolation. This focus has come in handy. The current crisis has made me think even deeper about my values, my connection to nature, and how I want to contribute in future. This thinking has guided me to create with a renewed purpose.

Check out my latest diamond paintings from the LIT Series. You will know what I mean.

Finally, I hope you are not pushing for hyper-productivity or forcing unrealistic goals and causing performance anxiety. I can only share my experience and what works for me and hope you will consider these thoughts. I feel this crisis is a time to attune yourself to what’s happening around you. Feel it, think about it, and explore your ideas. The best creative solutions come when all of these elements interconnect and harmonize.

We will come out of this crisis altered, but with true inner light, sense of purpose, and clarity of direction.

I wouldn’t wish anything less for you.

This article was republished, with permission, from Reena Ahluwalia’s blog.

Find Reena online here.

Reena Ahluwalia is an award-winning jewellery designer and artist, based in Toronto. A Fellow of Institute without Boundaries (IwB), Ahluwalia’s hyper-realistic diamond and gemstone paintings have been exhibited in Canada, as well as internationally in the United States, Hong Kong, India, and Thailand. She is a professor and member of the George Brown College Jewellery Program Advisory Committee. Connect with Ahluwalia online at reenaahluwalia.com.

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