Historically, the world of fine jewelry has been regarded as a members-only club that prided itself on being exclusive and restricting acceptance into its fortified confines to those with stature and oodles of money. Opening the doors to the masses, so to speak, is Flont, a new fine jewelry e-commerce site that is joining the luxury-on-loan bandwagon that includes fashion platforms Rent the Runway and Armarium. Founded by Cormac Kinney, the year-old, U.S.-based company not only aims to democratize the jewelry industry, but is also striving to make it much more covetable in this digital age.
Fine jewelry is rare and usually very expensive, which is why wearing the real deal is a sure-fire way to display—read: flaunt, or, for U.S. trademark purposes, flont—one’s spending power and position in society. That said, there is no denying that shopping habits have changed. And though owning an eye-catching pearl necklace or dangling set of diamond earrings is still a status symbol, the younger generation has come to value experiences over accumulating stuff. To whit: most would rather go to an exotic locale and post about it on Instagram, than buy a new gold bracelet.
As the husband of jewelry designer Mimi So and former jewelry brand president at Richemont, Kinney—who is a self-professed “serial software guy; to the bone, a nerd”—saw first-hand how traditional retail and spending culture has transformed. He is aware of the foot traffic at freestanding stores and how it is waning within each passing year, as consumers have taken to going online for their fashion purchases.
“The average age for the clientele for major jewelry brands is steadily climbing,” Kinney observed. “New, Millennial clients are not becoming interested in jewelry because they’re not walking into these Madison Avenue stores they way they used to. We have to bring the jewelry to them.”
Seeing the success of Rent the Runway and how women could discover new fashion labels through this type of platform, Kinney devised a way to offer the same sense of wonder with fine jewelry, which is why Flont adopted the try-and-buy business model. Because unlike apparel, purchasing fine pieces involves more deliberation—if only for the steep prices. Women want to touch and feel it before making a commitment. So, to make things more accessible, the site offers a subscription plan that allows clients to test run a selection of products. “Jewelry is perfect for sharing,” Kinney said. “It is expensive and durable. Women would much rather have variety than buy just one piece every two to three years.”
By paying a monthly fee of $299 (for a minimum of three months), anyone can become a member and borrow an unlimited number of pieces from a collection made up both established and emerging brands—40 in total. There is also complimentary insurance and FedEx delivery both ways. Those who wish to forgo membership entirely, preferring a one-time transaction, can get an item on loan for four days from $129 to $329, depending on the cost.
And to make sure that everything available is up to snuff, Kinney enlisted Brooke Magnaghi, the former accessories and jewelry director at W magazine, to be the firm’s creative director and curate an online space unlike any other. “There was a group of designers that I really wanted to work with,” she said. “We wanted it to feel very special. It’s true fine jewelry, artisan jewelry.”
Along with offering vintage and signed pieces from recognized names like Cartier, Bulgari, Van Cleef & Arpels and Tiffany & Co., Flont also has exclusive partnerships with Noor Fares, Deborah Pagani, Carla Amorim, Crow’s Nest, Mimi So and other captivating designers working in the industry today. The eclectic mix, which is priced in the $2,500 to $10,000 range, speaks to variety tastes and is as trendy as they are timeless. And should clients fall in love with item and chose to keep it, a members-only discount is provided.
“We’ve proven that some of our clients are buying the pieces that they borrow,” Kinney said. “So, we’ve become a viable sales channel. It’s not just the revenue from the rentals and the memberships, but also the revenue from the sales.”
The firm also has a concierge on hand should a client need style advice or wishes to make a custom order. And there is a members lounge in New York for those who may want a to select jewelry in person. For Flont, all these features are meant to ease the online purchasing process and have consumers understand that what it is providing is a service, as apposed to a product.
“This concept is not new,” Kinney explained. “Look at software. People don’t buy it anymore—they subscribe to it. A lot people don’t buy cars anymore—they use Uber, Zip Car or lease them. No one buys computer servers anymore—they use Amazon, Google or Microsoft. All the things that we used to buy is now a service. And we’re trying to enable the next and current generation of women to really enjoy it. By making it more accessible, we’re creating new lifelong clients for fine jewelry.”
You can check out the rest of Flont’s press coverage here: https://flont.club/press!
Let us share your good news! Send in your story to LMcGuire@PNTax.com.