Cafe Forgot in New York sells all kinds of funky fashion, but it’s the bright pink and acid green rings that the independent boutique doesn’t seem to stock.
The polymer clay and resin jewelry, from Blobb by Mexican designer Sofia Elias, looks like something you’d win with a gumball machine. Shoppers go crazy for them and often buy several at once – for $ 50 a pop. Blobb rings will soon appear in Selfridges and Domicile Tokyo in Japan in London.
“It’s like little abstract paintings that come to life,” said Shannon Marie Watts. “[The rings are] happy and a little innocent – things I think have been lost in recent times. “
Plastic charm bracelets, candy-colored rings, fringe-bead necklaces studded with letters and emojis, and other kitschy jewelry are one of the more whimsical trends to emerge from the pandemic. The colorful Balenciaga bracelet that spells out the brand’s name in beads retails for $ 450 and Bottega Veneta’s beaded flower necklace gained notoriety last month for its dazzling $ 3,390 price tag. But shoppers also buy similar necklaces for $ 18 from Urban Outfitters.
“It feels like summer camp,” says Ryan Kleman, accessories purchasing manager at Moda Operandi, where colorful beaded necklaces from éliou and brightly colored chunky rings from La Manso have become bestsellers. “They are playful, very emotional and make her feel good.”
Camp jewelry is at the crossroads of several trends that will dominate post-pandemic fashion. It’s a hub of delicate, minimalist jewelry that Instagram, as well as boutiques like Brooklyn’s Catbird, popularized a few years ago. Like crop tops and mom jeans, the items evoke the 1990s for nostalgic millennials and curious Gen Zers. And they’re the kind of bright, bold, and unique statement that many post-pandemic shoppers crave.
“The shopper has learned that she really has everything she needs,” says Kleman. “So if she’s going to spend money, it’s going to be something unambiguously different and something she can’t live without.”
The infamous Bottega necklace marked the moment when this jewelry style went viral – the necklace ‘resembles jewelry made by children’, The daily mail snorted. And while it’s true that the style mimics pieces made by kids at summer camp, often from cheap plastic beads, there’s a reason customers are willing to pay for them.
“For many shoppers, it wasn’t about going cheap, but about spending money on something that appealed to them,” said Ruth Faulkner, editor of Retail jeweler, a trade magazine. “Shoppers were willing to spend a lot on something that moved them.”
The trend had been bubbling since last summer, when wealthy shoppers on lockdown were looking for fun pieces to buy.
“I read through all of our DMs and people tell me they smile, laugh, make connections and this type of jewelry gives them that, miss,” said Roxanne Assoulin, a jewelry designer who has been making bead designs for years, seeing a 20 percent jump in sales 2020.
Celebrities helped spread the trend. Influencer Chiara Ferragni often sports colorful necklaces with pony beads, as do Gen-Z “It Girls” Simi and Haze Khadra. Harry Styles wore Éliou’s beaded necklaces in his “Golden” music video. Even CGI influencer Miquela has added beaded necklaces to her selfies.
The rise of whimsical beaded jewelry ties in with the resurgence of the style trends of the 90s and early 2000s. Colorful beaded jewelery was popular in the rave and electronic music scene of the 90s – kandi jewelery was often traded at festivals.
“These pieces have emotional value because they make shoppers feel good and safe,” said James Abramson, who runs the ’90s fashion Instagram account @ 90sanxiety. “They remind you of your childhood, but they also have a designer touch, so they give you extra feeling.”
Sonya Abrego, a fashion historian and professor at Parsons and Fordham, said camp jewelry fits the DIY aesthetic that has become popular in fashion. She sees the style as a response to the ‘curated, Instagram-perfect vibe’.
These pieces have emotional value because they make shoppers feel good and safe.
“These necklaces aren’t that smooth or polished, and we’ve received very stylized fashion images for a long time, so this is all a setback,” Abrego said. “The visual world is too slick and the kids are over it.”
A rolled future
Retailers bet the hunger for kitschy jewelry will continue to grow. Assoulin has added new bead bracelet sets and introduced additional color schemes for her existing styles.
Where were the trends emerging from the 2008 recession minimalism and quiet luxury, Shakaila Forbes-Bell, a fashion consumer psychologist based in the UK, predicted that shoppers this year will be rushing to buy loud, eccentric statement pieces.
“We want to buy bright, child-like pieces that make us feel hopeful during very dark moments,” said Forbes-Bell. “People are desperate for a sense of fun and playfulness in their wardrobe after a year of lockdowns and sweatpants.”
Elias, the Blobb designer, said she is preparing for the post-pandemic statement piece rush by expanding to brightly colored bracelets made from recycled plastic. She’s also going to sell them at a higher price, she said, after seeing herself craving her $ 50 rings.
“I think people want to wear these weird little things,” she said. And they want them to be unique and delicate so that you can really take care of them. Shoppers want to take care of their little bits. “
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