High jewelry brand Grace Lee opens its first boutique in Venice, California – JCK

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Twelve years after launching her eponymous high jewelry collection, the Los Angeles-based designer Grace Lee opens its very first retail store.

The branded boutique will open later this month in Venice, Calif., in a newly renovated space on the upscale Rose Avenue retail row. Its 1,000 square feet will be divided equally between offices and businesses.

The brand, which specializes in sophisticated yet always fashionable gold and diamond designs, already has a coveted list of retail partners that includes ABC Carpet & Home, Goop, Twist, Steven Alan, Net-a-Porter and Claire. V

But Lee says she’s looking forward to showcasing her collection, which is extensive for an independent brand, in its entirety in the new store: “I have over 10 different collections…and we always create from all of those. collection,” she says. “That’s a lot of SKUs for any wholesale retailer. We were constantly getting emails asking where customers could find something from this or that past collection. Now customers can see everything in one place.

Grace Lee Store
Inside the first Grace Lee store in Venice, California.

The boutique also provides space for the designer to work with her clients on custom engagement rings, which Lee says is a “huge” part of her business. She adds, “I wanted a space where clients could come in and see my work before deciding if a custom or collectible piece would be right for them. Our own retail space will allow us to connect with our customers on an intimate level. We want to host private shopping events, trunk presentations, and also be a source to connect our brides with other wedding specialists.

Grace Lee sapphire ring
Grace Lee domed ring in 14k gold with diamonds and a pear-shaped blue sapphire from the Demi collection, $4,800

Lee personally designed the store’s layout, built-ins and display areas, and says she views the design of the retail space as an extension of the brand and its aesthetic.

Grace Lee’s design studio was once in downtown Los Angeles, and Lee says it attracted a lot of out-of-towners, almost all of whom had Venice on their travel itinerary. “I would ask where they are staying and what plans they had in LA. Many of them stayed in Venice or had at least one point of contact in Venice, whether it was to shop, eat or go to the beach.”

This fact played into its decision to open in the beach community. “Plus, I love the eclectic mix of retail and residences on Rose Avenue,” she says. “We are close to the main shopping streets of Abbott Kinney and Main Street, but Rose is less commercial which is what I wanted.”

The store has been under construction for about two years, and when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Lee said she and her team were in the middle of a renovation. “I thought, what am I doing?”sHe recalls. “I’m halfway through building a retail store as the world seems to be falling apart.”

She remembers the impact of seeing major retailers, including Barneys New York, shut down for good, and thinking, “How am I going to get there?”

But she and her team continued with the store, hampered by delays that slowed its opening (Lee had planned to open the store last summer). In the end, she says, “I learned to be patient.”

Los Angeles County’s COVID-19 mandates, coupled with Lee’s personal focus on the safety of shoppers and employees, mean the store will initially be by appointment only. Consumers can make an appointment on the brand’s website.

Lee notes, “We want to make sure there’s enough time between customers to clean up and get the next customer ready.” Coincidentally, the brand team had always planned to facilitate experiences for shoppers “where it feels like you have the store and the staff all to yourself.” In the short term, it will be an experience for every customer: “We intentionally create a personalized retail experience, so in a way the pandemic does not affect this goal.”

When the store has more buying capacity, the brand will hold events such as trunk shows for other retail brands, “like my friend Jeana Sohn, who has a clothing line, and my friend Heather Taylor, who has a line of linens,” and events for brides-to-be with wedding planners, caterers, florists and clothing designers.

Top: Grace Lee, fine jewelry designer (all photos courtesy of Grace Lee)

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