Jewelry brand Lil Milan launches higher-priced line and unveils boutique – WWD

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MILAN — The valuable lesson Veronica Varetta learned in 2020 is to always trust her instincts.

Prioritizing instinct over rational long-term planning has taken the entrepreneur behind Italian semi-fine jewelry brand Lil Milan a long way, even amid a pandemic, as Varetta has profited difficult times to take his label to the next level.

The digital-native company she launched in 2017 and has since gained a following has launched a physical outpost, adjusted its business structure and is ready to launch a new line at a higher price.

Hidden behind the wooden doors of an elegant Milanese palace in Via Donizetti, a 10-minute walk from the city’s Golden Triangle but less exposed to local commercial and tourist traffic, Lil House is the showroom-store concept of the brand that opened this week.

“We didn’t want a predictable window on the street, but something more familiar. A welcoming environment, more like a home rather than the usual jewelry stores which may seem too exclusive to be accessible,” said Varetta, echoing the brand’s core mission of bringing young consumers closer to gold jewelry. .

Namely, the brand’s no-frills aesthetic, pricing and solid storytelling quickly resonated with a large community – or “sisterhood,” as Varetta described it – comprising women between the ages of 20 and 25. years finishing their studies and wanting to indulge themselves, as well as customers aged 35 to 50 looking for everyday and simpler alternatives to their luxury pieces.

Crafted at factories in Italy’s golden quarters of Valenza and Vicenza, the Lil Milan line includes gold chains, dainty earrings, tiny hoops and extra-thin 9 or 18-karat gold rings at prices ranging from 60 euros to 550 euros.

Inside the new Lil House store, the full collection is showcased in a custom Varetta-designed furniture display that dominates the space, which is rendered in shades of pink and spans two floors.

Inside the Lil house.
Courtesy of Lil Milan

The integration of a computer screen invites visitors to interact with the brand’s digital platform and take advantage of omnichannel features. It also has a phone charging station, providing fast battery recharging for customers juggling selfie-friendly corners in the space. These include club-like elements such as neon lights and a mirror repeating “random statements that came to mind,” Varetta said.

The same approach but a change of color marks the narrow, gray staircase leading down to the basement, which is dubbed the “Boys Tears Club” in honor of the best-selling choker of the same name lined with teardrop designs. Designed as a darker, convivial space, the basement will host events, small gatherings and workshops once social distancing rules are relaxed.

The opening of Lil House reinforces the direction the brand has taken since the summer, when Varetta decided to all but do away with wholesale distribution. The wholesale channel generated 30% of the company’s total sales, which are expected to reach the million euro mark this year.

“Right after the first lockdown in Italy, we went over the numbers, analyzed our performance across the different channels and, reluctantly, we had to take this step. We just kept the partnership with two online retailers, which are Yoox and Luisa Via Roma,” Varetta said.

Since the move, the company has been committed to strengthening its online presence, planning investments in digital activities that can boost brand awareness abroad, including France, UK, Germany and in Saudi Arabia.

While European markets already account for most purchases made online, Varetta believes there is potential in Saudi Arabia as well. She recalls being impressed by the high number of Arab customers buying the brand when it opened a temporary store in the Sardinian luxury resort of Porto Cervo two years ago.

But the entrepreneur will soon also have more expensive tastes. Aiming for a higher price tag, Lil Milan will launch a line adorned with conflict-free diamonds and sapphires that will feature 11 items including rings, bracelets, pendants and earrings. With prices ranging from 500 euros to 2,500 euros, the collection will be available at Lil House next week and on the online store in January.

In line with her philosophy, Varetta said she “wanted to make diamonds accessible to young women and give them a version of gemstones that they could truly use 24/7, without waiting for a special occasion.” Echoing this objective, a digital campaign showing the pieces worn during ordinary moments and activities will accompany the launch.

Inside the Lil house.

Inside the Lil house.
Courtesy of Lil Milan

For Varetta, a direct direct-to-consumer approach meant regaining full control not only over the product and its distribution, but also over the visual and communication assets.

“To be honest, today it’s all about what you build around the brand and not the product, because you can’t come up with so many new things in jewelry in terms of products… Our product can be easily copied but there is so much more on a human level and in terms of presentation so the difference is in the service you provide.The most important thing is that each of our customers feel comfortable not only with the product but also with how it’s sold. We have to move between Amazon for speed and fine jewelry for quality of service,” Varetta said.

An established e-commerce site and logistics system gave Lil Milan an edge over competitors during lockdown and helped boost its sales, many of which were to loyal customers. To better meet demand, the company expanded the payment methods available on the platform and launched the “Jewelry hotline” video call service, connecting consumers and sellers for sizing consultations, styling and label information.

“We’ve had great feedback, it feels like people have been more eager to speak directly human-to-human during lockdown. They wanted to erase the cold barrier of digital platforms,” Varetta said of of the tool, which complemented the existing services offered via WhatsApp and online chat.

“Transparency in communication is essential, every channel must be used to answer customer doubts and we have invested even more in this direction during the confinement. Customer trust is the number one priority, “said the founder, emphasizing brand reputation is built primarily through word of mouth.

Social media activations added to Lil Milan’s momentum and boosted engagement with his 66,000 Instagram followers. Although the fun and pink content is bait for millennials’ double taps, the company has also used the platform to promote its charitable initiatives, revealing a throwback approach and a winning ethical side of business. relevant to consumers. .

During confinement, the brand notably donated part of the proceeds from its online sales to the Policlinico di Milano hospital and released a breast-shaped pendant to support the Cerchi D’Acqua association, which offers psychological and legal support to women victims of violence.

Other initiatives included a bicycle delivery service to reduce its carbon footprint and partnerships supporting local businesses. For the most recent, the company has partnered with a local chocolate company to develop treats adorned with gold leaf to give away to customers with every online purchase made starting this week. “So now there’s an edible Lil too,” Varetta said with a smile.

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