LONDON – Los Angeles-based jewelry brand, True, has been developing its collections of lab-grown diamonds since 2014, long before the conversation around man-made stones – touted as a sustainable alternative to mined diamonds – crept into the mainstream.
The debate around the sustainability benchmarks of mined versus lab-grown diamonds remains hot and conclusions are far from being drawn, but that hasn’t stopped the demand for lab-grown diamonds from continuing to grow. It is estimated that by 2030, lab-grown diamond production will reach $ 30 billion and True, a vertically integrated company whose products are manufactured by the Diamond Foundry in San Francisco using cutting-edge technology, wants to be a leader. in this space.
The brand is already well established in the United States with a new showroom in Melrose Place, Leonardo DiCaprio among its investors and numerous high profile fashion collaborations including Amanda Hearst, Arizona Muse and Matthew Williams of Givenchy. The latter worked with the jewelry brand to produce a bespoke piece of fine jewelry that Kendall Jenner will wear at the Met Gala last September.
Now, to continue its mission of owning the lab-developed space, the company is focusing on Europe and putting in place ambitious retail deployment plans to reflect its success in the United States, as well as in China, where it has an established customer base and a Shanghai showroom.
It has already established itself in Copenhagen, given the Danish capital’s lead in terms of sustainable innovation.
“A business is first and foremost its people and we found some great people in Copenhagen. Everyone is very value driven and focused on working for a company that has social impact, ”said Vrai CEO Mona Akhavi. “It really made sense for us to start there, as Copenhagen already has this community that is focused on expanding sustainable fashion and luxury around the world, as well as top-notch conferences like the Copenhagen Fashion Summit. “
Its sustainability credentials are one of the brand’s strongest cards. One of the biggest criticisms about the production of lab-grown diamonds is the amount of energy used to create artificial stones in labs. Still, True and the Diamond Foundry distinguish themselves by using proprietary plasma reactors powered by renewable hydropower and ensuring their products are carbon neutral.
Having a base in Copenhagen meant easy access to major environmental organizations that worked with the brand to certify Diamond Foundry as the world’s leading carbon neutral producer.
“We’ve looked at everything from the technology to our energy intake and how many people drive to the office. This naturally sets the tone for everything we do, ”Akhavi added, also highlighting the company’s use of compostable packaging and recycled gold.
But when it comes to expanding its retail presence, the company prioritizes European markets such as the UK, France, Germany and Spain, where customers already have showed a growing appetite for lab-grown jewelry by shopping on the True e-commerce platform. .
After a year of facilitating virtual dates during the lockdown, the company has opened its first showroom in the UK which already has a full appointment schedule, according to Akhavi.
“The UK was immediately an important base for us due to the existing consumer demand and education around the lab grown market. Some of the biggest traditional jewelers, who have a solid foundation in the UK and Europe, have started using or producing lab-grown diamonds – and that has created a great opening for us, ”she said. , adding that the company had relied on the existing one. market awareness with dedicated communications on transparent supply chains and brand design capabilities.
“The definition of luxury is evolving and consumers want to know where their product comes from and what impact it has. Really educating the UK public on our values was the first step as it is a very curious, forward thinking and well educated market. “
During the lockdown, the engagement ring category grew by 120% and the brand personalization activity quintupled. As the world opens up Akhavi wants to build on its momentum by sticking to the showroom model across Europe and offering customers a date.
The aim is to continue to collaborate with designer brands and influencers in the field of fashion and sustainability, “to show what can be done with lab-grown diamonds”.
“We have everything from customizable classics to bolder collections and fine jewelry pieces that go up to $ 85,000 and feature up to seven different diamond sizes in a single bracelet,” Akhavi said, adding that these collections are then marketed in a way that is “confident, luxurious but not intimidating or pretentious.”
Partnership plans with some department stores are also in the works, but the company only sees them as pop-up experiences and wants to retain control of the retail journey with a d-to-c model.
“We are seeing acceptance from all of the forward-thinking luxury homes and retailers we work with,” Akhavi said, highlighting collaborations with Dover Street Market, Harrods and Galeries Lafayette.
“The data is there, the numbers are there, and we see from the start that customers are more and more educated, the purchasing power of the younger generation is increasing and this part of the industry is positioned for substantial growth. , it’s just no matter what traditional luxury brands decide to do: keep competing or catch up and really innovate. “