When Covid-19 swept through the world two years ago, one particular word was thrown around by businesses everywhere: Pivot. Since most of us were confined to our homes, restaurants, retailers, and a slew of other businesses were forced to shift online. While it wasn’t smooth sailing for most, a handful were lucky to weather the storm like Simone Jewels.
At the height of the pandemic in 2020, Simone Jewels became the first Singaporean jewellery brand to have an in-store presence in Harrods, London.
“If you look at history, three things hold during a pandemic: Marriages increase, birth rates go up, and people purchase more jewellery and gold as assets, specifically those with larger-sized gemstones,” reveals Simone Ng, the brand’s founder. “We kept engaging customers even with the limitations of physical shows through virtual means like online viewings. We didn’t curb production either, launching our storied collections year after year.”
In addition to online efforts, Ng shares that they used that period to launch a diffusion brand (Sincerely Simone), as well as initiate a jewellery recycling initiative, which proved that well-crafted pieces are hardy, can be redesigned, and has the ability to grow in value.
While it seems that the worst is behind us and that Singapore is slowly inching towards normalcy, Ng decided that it’s time for a new challenge: To take on the world.
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What inspired you to grow the brand outside of Singapore?
It was a natural progression for Simone Jewels to look beyond Singapore, seeing the interest already coming from overseas. For example, previous customers who have moved out of Singapore have raised awareness of the brand simply by wearing their pieces, which caught the eye of others in their social circles.
Before the pandemic, we had plans to participate in various international trade and fashion shows including Couture Las Vegas, Jewellery Arabia in Bahrain, and Paris Fashion Week. Unfortunately, these had to be put on hold for two years. We simply had to think outside the box to gain the international exposure we were pursuing within travel limitations.
We don’t just sell jewellery. We are storytellers that also sell art and dreams. In Asia, appreciation of jewellery as art and not just as an investment is still a growing space. Beyond Singapore, this space is growing exponentially.
Customers are living in an era of individualism. Everyone wants to own a unique piece that nobody else has and this is what we specialize in. This is especially true in today’s connected world where it’s easy to compare what others own and wear.
Why did you choose London, LA, and Paris?
London is the crossroads of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. It’s also the leading fashion capital in the Anglosphere. With the right partner representing our brand knocking on our doors, it was a good place for us to start.
London also opened up the opportunity to meet potential customers and partners from the US and Europe. Being in Harrods opened many other doors – hence our expansion into LA and soon, Paris.
Our inaugural participation in the Las Vegas Couture 2022 (one of the world’s largest designer exhibitions attracting key buyers, press, retailers, and stylists representing the world’s most iconic personalities) is another exciting milestone to look forward to.
Why is international expansion important to for you?
We’re proud to be a homegrown brand and we’ve been blessed to be nominated for seven consecutive years as Singapore’s top jewellery designers.
We are also grateful to our local and regional base as we celebrated our 15th anniversary in 2021. That said, the brand has bigger aspirations and dreams that draw on the many stories from all around the world in our annual collections and we wanted to see how far we can push ourselves internationally with these storied gems.
In 2021, Simone hosted the brand’s first international gemstone masterclass at the HOFA gallery in London, a continuation of virtual masterclasses educating collectors how to appreciate, identify and invest in quality gemstones.
What are the challenges of going into an international space?
There’s no doubt that international and online markets are a crowded space, but the key thing for any brand is resilience. I noticed not many brands have ventured internationally during the pandemic, preferring to focus on building the shortfall in sales instead of brand identity.
One question I often get asked when mentoring my students at the Raffles Design Institute: “How do I become a successful designer?” I remind them there’s no secret formula – you must know yourself, love what you are doing, and be consistent and persistent with your passion. The nitty-gritty of managing a business part will come naturally, but the passion for it is not something that can be fast-tracked nor taken away by anyone.
I’m confident that we can carve our niche. This is also due to our brand ethos where we specialize in designs and colored gems as a way to tell stories and history. Fans of our brand appreciate our pieces not just for their aesthetic value and one-in-the-world nature, but for the inspirations, legacies and stories that are intrinsic to each.
Did you rely on partners for your international expansion?
We are fortunate to have insights from Enterprise Singapore for our UK and US entries. We work together with them closely to craft a shared plan that was executed through contacts they introduced.
We’re also cultivating a network of passionate partners we’ve met along the way, which include contacts for brand publicity, stockists, and touring logistics to represent us remotely. For example, our listing on luxury e-commerce retailer Farfetch was done in conjunction with our partner boutique in Beverly Hills.
In 2021, the brand established the 1,300 sq. ft. Maison Simone for private viewings and a lifestyle experience.
Have business operations been affected by pandemic limitations?
Logistics have been more difficult especially at the start when shipping was effectively halted. Currently, we must account for slower timelines and more expensive routes, which is the same for a lot of other businesses.
On the supply side, we know that some areas are still struggling with Covid-19, especially in places with less resources for medical health. But because we have been in the industry for over 15 years, we have good relationships with our sources who are members of the Coloured Gemstones Association certified for ethical sourcing. This allows us to procure quality gemstones despite the pandemic.
For more information on Simone Jewels, click here