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O Canada: Canadian jewellery shines bright this fall

Engaging millennials

This silver, brass, and resin ring by Vancouver's Erica Leal plays into this fall's trend toward singularity rings. Photo courtesy Erica Leal
This silver, brass, and resin ring by Vancouver’s Erica Leal plays into this fall’s trend toward singularity rings.
Photo courtesy Erica Leal

As millennials continue their search for personalization and differentiation within their engagement ring selections, this fall should see an increase in nontraditional looks. Precious and semiprecious gemstones in vibrant colours, often in smaller sizes and shapes, will be set as centre stones. (Learn more by reading this Forbes article.)

We can also expect the term ‘demi-fine’ to surpass its current 29.7 million daily Google searches—I predict it will rise to more than 49.5 million by the time this article is published. (Details on demi-fine can be found here and here.) Look for subcategories such as demi-fine bridal to also start trending strong with millennials by this year’s holiday season.

While stackable rings remain in vogue, the fall trend is on singularity rings, like those offered by Vancouver artisan Erica Leal. Leal polished her skills at the illustrious Camberwell College of Arts in London before returning to her native Canadian home to handcraft millennial-minded jewellery. In recent years, she has gained high fashion praise with her printed sterling silver cast and hand-cut acrylic colour inlay jewellery—all keeping to her own art deco flair.

Canadian-born Wing Yau, founder of WWAKE, now creates in New York City. She launched WWAKE in 2012 by merging fashion art with the intimacy of jewellery. In some ways, WWAKE acts like a high-fashion apparel brand, as it creates seasonal market disruption. An example of this is WWAKE pioneering a new bridal category segment in 2015 with the debut of unorthodox engagement ring styles. These will probably be branded as demi-fine bridal in due time.

Canada gains the Markle sparkle

Celebrities aren’t always recording artists, actors, models, or sports heroes. In fact, one family is guaranteed global celebrity fame forever—England’s royal family. As consumers worldwide continue their infatuation with all things blueblood, Canada is again reaping significant retail benefits.

The influence of Meghan Markle, who married the U.K.'s Prince Harry in May, has boosted sales for a number of Canadian jewellery brands. Photos courtesy Birks
The influence of Meghan Markle, who married the U.K.’s Prince Harry in May, has boosted sales for a number of Canadian jewellery brands.
Photos courtesy Birks

From a surface-level perspective, Canada is taking the spotlight again thanks to Los Angeles-born actress Meghan Markle. Her recent marriage to Prince Harry, together with her open devotion to many Canadian brands, is providing newfound Canadian awareness and profitability.

Like Kate Middleton (now the Duchess of Cambridge), Markle is a ‘commoner,’ not having been born into royalty. Despite her former lead role in the cable television series Suits, Markle more fits the image of the very pretty girl next door than a Hollywood starlet making her way to the throne. She has an endearing, people-pleasing personality and seems proud to unofficially promote the Canadian brands she wears. Yet, this is the mere tip of the sword to why Canada is cashing in on Markle’s magic.

Let’s understand the product placement powerhouse Meghan Markle is. Her current public and social relations presence is so strong, the items she is photographed wearing sell out within hours—sometimes minutes—of release. The consumer frenzy that ensues from any product (many Canadian-based of late) Markle dons is so intense, a global marketing phrase has been coined: “The Markle Effect.”

No matter what you call it, the resulting numbers that relate to consumer online activity over Markle’s jewellery adornment are riveting. Take Montréal-based Birks Group and the 400 per cent increase in web traffic it experienced soon after Markle wore its gold and opal earrings in the official engagement photo released to the world. (Click here for more information.) That spike was responsible for the same earring selling out on the Birks website at US$995, followed by the sellout of a matching pendant and a similar earring.

In a recent Financial Times article, “Meghan Markle’s Choice of Earrings Boosts Birks,” the brand’s CEO, Jean-Christophe Bédos, noted the product placement wasn’t planned.

“One likes to believe we are great masterminds and plan everything to the minor detail. But it was a very, very happy and nice surprise for us,” he said.

Birks plans to continue leveraging Markle’s namesake and images with its social media platforms, website, and public relations. The fact she wears minimalistic designs (as selected by her stylist) plays perfectly into the fashion trends of diminutive opals with diamond accents and single rather than stacked rings—both set to continue through the fall of 2019.

The bow on the box

Birks is one of the Canadian brands to have benefitted from Meghan Markle's fashion choices. She is pictured here wearing Birks' rose gold and diamond snowflake ring with its yellow gold and diamond splash ring.
Birks is one of the Canadian brands to have benefitted from Meghan Markle’s fashion choices. She is pictured here wearing Birks’ rose gold and diamond snowflake ring with its yellow gold and diamond splash ring.

What do the British Fashion Council (BFC), the Commonwealth Fashion Council (CFC), and Canadian designers all have in common? The first-ever Commonwealth Fashion Exchange, held at Buckingham Palace in February of this year. This is a major event that, beyond the regal setting, connects fashion’s elite with Canada’s current and up-and-coming jewellery designers.

Robin Kay is largely to thank for this recent Canada-Britain-world marvel. (More details are available here.) Kay pioneered the largest Fashion Week in Canada, then transferred ownership in 2012 to lead the Fashion Design Council of Canada (FDCC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the Canadian fashion industry. Her latest role is actively engaging government leaders to focus on the nation’s culture and commerce. She is now lobbying for a new national policy that would acknowledge all designers’ contributions in Canada.

I conclude this story with a newfound respect and awe for all Canada is now and what will be revealed in the near future. Beyond the royals and New York, Paris, and London’s Fashion Weeks, we will undoubtedly see more Canadian jewellery and accessories hitting the runway and resulting in rich retail sales.

Dan Scott is a brand architect with Luxe Licensing, working with clients including Harry Winston, Gucci Jewelry, and a number of young brands and retailers. He is a founding member of QVC and served as Scott Kay’s CMO for a decade. Scott was a former advisory board member to the North American division of the CMO Council for 12 years and is on the board of directors for the Internet Marketing Association’s (IMA’s) New York chapter. He has been honoured with multiple branding, marketing, and social media awards, and hopes to relay his continued experience to the fine jewellery industry. Residing in the New York Metro region, he welcomes communications and may be reached at or (201) 294-3697.

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