Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Joanie M - Fused Glass Jewelry

I’m sure by now, many of you have seen, sold, bought, worn and enjoyed our Joanie M fused glass line. Yes, this jewelry grouping is also fair trade and hand made in Guatemala. 
I first met the Rosita and Nelson about three years ago.  I witnessed their work and knew there was huge potential in the US Market.  Initially I thought their designs a bit too busy.  They were using a lot of flouncy & decorative Chinese findings that could be purchased locally in Guatemala.  Their color combinations were perfect for their local markets but not ours.
Three years later we have developed a swanky and sophisticated line that is purrrrfect for the US Market. Colors coincide with trendy fashion. Designs are simple and often use leather.  We’ve added macramé elements.  Did I mention that pricing is very affordable?
The other thing I like to share about this collection is that I named it for my mother.  I wanted to give it a different identity, different from our original ‘Dunitz beaded’ line.  I chose my mom because I miss her. And, I knew she would get a kick out of having this collection named for her. She is the original “Joanie Mitchell”!  My mom dreamed of owning a dress boutique.  From heaven, she can now see jewelry with her name displayed in many boutiques. Sweet. -ND

Friday, March 14, 2014

circa 1993 - Our first Leather & Beaded Bracelets and Chokers

I scrounged around the office to find some old leather & beaded bracelets from the early days of  Dunitz this morning.  I discovered a few leather chokers (SKU: LCH1 or leather choker 1) shown here to the right. They adjust AND they can be wrapped as a bracelet. The next season we introduced skinnier ones and wider ones.  We added crystals to the mix. Every season we've added new styles which changed up the sizes, shapes, components - you name it.  These designs started around 1993. And, we've been selling these bread & butter bracelets ever since. The bracelets shown in the bottom photo here (SKU: LP12) have been in the line FOREVER.  Each season we change the colors.  Not only are they fun and well made, they are very affordable.  Most stores retail this bracelet (SKU: LP12)  for anywhere from $14-18.00/each. We've made oodles of them for our 'private label' customers including the likes of J.Jill and Peruvian Connection.
Did I mention in my last post that emulation is the sincerest form of flattery? Yes I did.  I remember around this time, one now well known designer came into my trade show booth at the Los Angeles Gift Show.  She studied the line and then wrote an order for her shop to be shipped COD. (Cash on Delivery.) We had no idea who she was.  We were excited to be writing an order for a new client.  Guess what? She refused the COD shipment when it arrived to her shop.  Of course, we produced the order.  And she had plenty of time in our booth to study the line.  To this day, I can't tell you how many people walk into my trade show booth and tell me my line reminds them of the work offered by this designer.  My response is usually, "Oh. nice. Yes, we've been showing beadwork since 1990 and also creating our leather & beaded bracelets forever. I think you'll find them very very affordable."  a word less is usually the best policy :). We definitely did not copy this designer.
BTW, if you're on a tight budget for your store - write me privately. We do have stock of our originals that are not on our wholesale website. Let's talk. We may have some bracelets and chokers perfect for you and your bargain hunting customers.
Thanks for reading.  -ND

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Emulation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

...Oh Yeah! Some one copied your design again. How do I deal with it in business? I may grump a bit. And then I design something new and exciting. How else can we survive in a competitive world? It happens all the time. However, I must say, there are a few cases in the history of my business that stand out the most. I will share some of my war stories in my next few posts.

The first time I was copied was early on in the existence of Dunitz & Company. It was the early 90's.  I had been showing wonderful cuff bracelets with a very good response.  Times were economically better and customers were not afraid of higher priced items.  If you've worked with Dunitz for a looooong time, you will remember the infamous (SKU: P32) cuff bracelet with beaded bead closures.  (I've attached a photo here of my favorite from history that I kept for myself....all these years.) When we first introduced it, it was a very good seller. * In walks a well dressed couple. They entered my wholesale booth and telling me they had a high-end boutique in lower Manhattan.  I was not familiar with them. They seemed promising as a potentially significant new client. They took copious notes on my various cuff patterns and color combinations.  After that they were unavailable for follow up. The deal was never closed.  Several months after that - very similar cuff bracelets were introduced to the marketplace by these very people.  Instead of working in Guatemala, they had their bracelets beaded by Huichol Indians of Mexico.  I learned later that their company was very established and well funded. They gifted oodles of cuffs to celebrities. They created a buzz for their beauties and initiated a fad.  Their wholesale prices were double mine.  After that, countless people came into my trade show booth thinking I had "knocked off" the line these peeps had released.  Of course I was annoyed.  But, because they were so powerful in creating a trend, it also helped me financially.  My bracelets were gorgeous and they were priced 50% below the pieces made by the Huichol.  Many stores were thrilled to buy from me because my prices were more competitive.  Dunitz had a terrific year financially.  The unfortunate thing is after countless celebrities were photographed wearing beaded cuffs, many more companies were inspired to copy the look.  Lower end copies with inferior quality started flooding the marketplace.  It killed the concept. Beaded cuffs were dead....dead in the trendy fashion arena.  It was a tough blow for Dunitz. I would assume we would have reaped longer financial benefit from our cuff designs had the various imitations not found their way to market.  Dunitz even had a strong sales rep drop our line after this cycle. She couldn't wait for us to step back and retool. Yes, it was a setback.  But, what did I do. I stepped back and retooled. You can't keep a good dog down. -ND

Saturday, March 8, 2014

International Women's Day

Why does it take a day like today (designated International Women's Day) to acknowledge important women in our lives? I remember my mother saying "Every single day is Mothers Day," or something similar to this. So that's it! Cheers to all the women that make a difference....each and every day. Today I'm tipping my hat to the women and artisans responsible for making the Dunitz beaded jewelry line a reality. It's been 25 years since I first met Suri and Alicia. Suri (shown, right) is the first woman to teach Mayan women beading techniques. (I'm guessing without her, there would be almost no beaded jewelry coming out of Guatemala today.) Alicia (left on photo) has been working with us since day one. Truth be told, I should be acknowledging them out loud each and every day. With them, we make our Dunitz line "happen"! Thank you, girls :). -ND

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thinking in Color

I've been building my collection for so many years, twice a year.  I can be sitting at my desk in Los Angeles and visualize all of the beads and components in our Guatemala workshop!  OK - I have lots of jewelry in the office too.  This helps when I want to see how one bead looks with another.  Sometimes the opaque beads look just a bit too heavy with the transparent ones. 
In order to create my colors for any given season, I carefully watch the ready-to-wear fashion shows.  This starts with the NY runway shows...& then Paris, London and Milan.  I study the trends.  Taking a few trends on, I do my best to match beads with outfits that tell the various stories.  Here are some color stories that will evolve into a Fall 2014 beaded collection.  We'll also use these color stories to create our fused glass colors for the upcoming season. I can't give away all of my secrets. But for now, let's say it is fun to share these. -ND

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Living By Fair Trade Principles - Building Capacity

As most of you know, Dunitz & Company is a proud member of the Fair Trade Federation.  We've been doing business the same way...since 1990.  We joined FTF in 2008 and we continue to live by the Fair Trade Federation Principles. From time to time, I would like to comment on the various principles. Today, I wanted to pay tribute to Principle #3 - or "Building Capacity."  FTF defines this as:
Fair Trade is a means to develop producers’ independence. Members maintain long-term relationships based on solidarity, trust, and mutual respect, so that producers can improve their skills and their access to markets. Members help producers to build capacity through proactive communication, financial and technical assistance, market information, and dialogue. They seek to share lessons learned, to spread best practices, and to strengthen the connections between communities, including among producer groups.
Bravo and well said for those of us that continue to work in the same communities for many years.  I believe building capacity and "sustainability" works in all directions.  It isn't always about the workers - although this is what many fair traders focus on when speaking about their businesses and community. Loyalty works in all directions.  By working with the same beading community for nearly 25 years, I have found this community to be loyal (and loving) to me.  Together we've been able to develop and improve our quality, designs & distribution. The truth is this community sustains me just as much as I sustain them. Working this way is never a 'one shot' deal. It is consistent, solid, nurturing and yes, sustaining for all.
I have been developing similar relationships (albeit younger) with artisans in Guatemala creating the Joanie M fused glass line and in Peru with our leather flowers.  Both these projects are about three years old.  It is amazing how working with FTF Principles solidifies my relationships with the artisans I work with. I know I take good care of the folks I work with.  But, honestly, I think they might take better care of me :)! - ND