Good morning HFL readers! This week I had the pleasure of conversing with jewelry designer and philanthropist, Kara Ross, on the launch of her #655Madison curated collective. Ross created this new venture with the intention of showcasing fine jewelry from 8 top designers to not only draw attention to their talented work but also present consumers with a luxury jewelry experience all executed within her Madison Ave. boutique.
Upon speaking with Ross, I wanted to take the time to research both her, and her newest collective a bit more deeply, and to be honest, what I found barely scratches the surface of who Kara Ross truly is outside of a business woman, designer, and most importantly, as a philanthropist. Now, of course, it’s hard to get to know someone in one sit down conversation, but following our discussion, I really grew to admire Ross’ selfless and kind manner.
On the surface, Ross’ concept to share her space as well as split the monthly cost between the eight designers seems like quite an innovative business idea, which, is very much true. But beyond this generalization, her collective concept is so much more than that. Below is HFL’s discussion with Ross in which we get a more in-depth look at what #655Madison curated collective really is.
HFL: First and foremost, the fact that you are opening up your boutique to other designers to show off their talent is probably one of the most innovative ideas I’ve seen from a successful business owner. What initially made you come up with this idea?
Ross: “You know, retail is hard right now, and it makes it even harder for designers to show off their talent which is why I came up with the idea. I was at a CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) meeting, and with all the talk about the challenges of getting directly to the consumer, I figured this could be a good way to do just that.”
HFL: Did you have to weigh any pros and cons when it came down to creating, planning and executing this collective?
Ross: “Not really so much with weighing, but planning. It took a good 2 or 3 weeks of planning out the layout of the store, figuring case space and how we would set up our boutique windows to reflect the many facets of each designer’s collection.”
HFL: What is your ultimate goal with this concept?
Ross: “It’s easier for us to showcase talent found in the United States, but wouldn’t it be best also to showcase talent from all over? I mean places like Russia, South America, India… This is how we turn one voice into ten voices, draw attention to a growing concept, and show off talents from designers all over. I also want to open up my space to design students who might also benefit from showing off their pieces without the monthly cost. Additionally, designers can take 90% of their profit made from their collections as the other 10% will go to ‘Diamonds Unleashed.'”
HFL: Your company, ‘Diamonds Unleashed’ is gaining some exposure with this new venture as well. Can you give our readers a bit more insight on what ‘Diamonds Unleashed’ is?
Ross: “‘Diamonds Unleashed’ is a women’s empowerment movement started to create microfinance opportunities, and provide scholarships to girls in low-income areas for secondary education. The reason why it’s called ‘Diamonds Unleashed’ is because I feel like the words used to describe a diamond (beautiful, brilliant, unbreakable) are the same words I would use to describe women, and I feel like women should think of themselves as diamonds. We have also partnered with nonprofits including, ‘She’s the first,’ ‘Girls Who Code,’ and ‘girl up’ whom we donated funds for these opportunities.”
HFL: Featured designers are naturally gaining more publicity by displaying their collections in your boutique. How do you think this will help your brand equity?
Ross: “I think it will show more of the philanthropic transformation that the brand has made, but most importantly, help these designers gain the exposure they are looking for, as well as assist other initiatives. That’s why it’s a collective.”
HFL: As a successful business owner and designer, what advice would you give aspiring designers and business owners when it comes to being successful in this industry?
Ross: “I would challenge designers and aspiring business owners to look at things in a different way. Social media nowadays is such a solid foundation of growing a business. It’s so visual. Always consider the best possible way to reach out to the consumer.”
HFL: Do you think this collective will revolutionize the way brick and mortar do business being that so many are struggling today?
Ross: “I believe that it will make people look at it as a new way of doing things. The same old thing doesn’t work anymore. You have to think outside the box because consumers to believe in a different way.”
Designers including, Dean Harris, Simon Alcantara, Anndra Neen, Stephen Dweck, Kenny Hwang, Katrin Zimmerman, Mimi So, and Kara herself will have the pleasure of taking on two store sales associates that are trained on each designer’s product, and everything else from surveillance to visual merchandising of each collection. Each collection will include 15-25 pieces, and the stores center case will showcase a different designers collection weekly.
I want to extend a special sentiment to Kara Ross for thinking beyond the success of her personal collections, and allowing others who share the same talents in this industry to show off their work while also doing it for a good cause. You are truly an inspiration.
To check out more about ‘Diamonds Unleashed,’ please visit www.diamondsunleashed.org.