Olivia Landau, cofounder of The Clear Cut, Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Clear Cut
Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Clear Cut
With many retailers currently forced to rethink their physical spaces, The Clear Cut is successfully sustaining its business via social media, online communication tools like FaceTime, and on the strength of its direct-to-consumer concierge approach.
Let’s get something clear: its remote approach to selling is not the result of the new retail landscape presented by COVID-19. In fact, The Clear Cut never intended to have a brick and mortar retail space.
And if you assumed luxury items like diamond engagement rings wouldn’t be a popular candidate for a remote purchase, think again.
“70% to 75% of all of our clients work completely remotely with us, so they never really see the piece until they get it in their hands, once it’s finalized,” explains cofounder Olivia Landau.
“Every time a client starts the design process with us, we make the experience really personalized and educational, to empower each of our clients to make the decision remotely. We always start on a phone call to understand their preferences, price point, timeline, and then we handpick a selection of diamonds that we’ll pre-scan with our gemologists, to make sure the pieces are up to our quality standards.”
The Clear Cut does have a showroom in New York City, which is by appointment only. It operates using the same process as its remote system: it starts with a phone consult and then the team curates the diamonds specifically to each appointment. (The showroom has samples of The Clear Cut’s most popular designs, as well as its collection pieces.)
Cofounded by married couple Olivia Landau and Kyle Simon, who were among this year’s Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list in the “Retail & E-Commerce” category, The Clear Cut was launched in January 2018, when Landau and Simon recognized the demand for bespoke engagement rings at a wide range of prices, nationwide and globally.
Landau leaned on her family’s business and expertise — she is the fourth generation of her family in the diamond business — as well as her penchant for creating compelling and educational content in the form of her blog, which launched in 2016.
“Growing up, I thought there was no future in this industry, so I never had the intention to go into the jewelry business. But after college, I always had an interest and was just curious to explore it, and I decided to enrol at GIA — the Gemological Institute Of America. At the time, even buying diamonds online was a new concept and a lot of people didn’t believe that it was the future, and wondered how can people purchase expensive items, sight unseen.” (Simon also attended GIA.)
Landau’s career began in traditional retail, before working in the wholesale diamond industry. “I was making rings for friends and family, and then realized that most people were really yearning for more education and more guidance,” Landau explains. “So in 2016 I started The Clear Cut as an educational blog for my friends, my clients, my husband’s classmates — who I was making rings for — he was at Columbia Business School at the time — and then started posting some of the designs on Instagram. From there, people across the country started reaching out to me in my DMs, asking if I could help them make their rings.”
Simon realized that Landau’s side gig could become a profitable business. There was clearly a market for people who wanted bespoke custom rings, without paying a hefty price tag.
“I was just helping people remotely and sending photos of the diamonds, creating custom rings, and then it really took off.” Landau shares.
If you’re wondering about the remote design process, Landau explains how it works:
“It depends on the customer, but most people prefer to do phone consults with an expert who is there to guide you throughout the way. Then the photos of diamonds and designs are exchanged via email, because it’s easier to see that way. But some people do prefer doing their initial phone consult on FaceTime, Google Hangout or Zoom, and then actually seeing the specific diamond — in photo or video — is much better on email or text message, so that you can see the detail more. We’ll shoot a pic on an iPhone on a hand, so the customer gets a really good sense of what the diamond is going to look like in real life.”
Rings from The Clear Cut, Photo Credit: Paul Barcena
Photo Credit: Paul Barcena
There’s also an educational component that’s an important tenant in The Clear Cut’s business model, which features rich content around diamond and jewelry. as well as the podcast Cozying Up, hosted by Landau.
“It came about pretty organically. When I started The Clear Cut, I was listening to a lot of podcasts featuring female entrepreneurs, and I had been a guest on a couple of podcasts and really enjoyed sharing my stories. I thought launching a podcast would be a great way to learn more about different women’s journeys and meet some amazing women — whether they were entrepreneurs or experts in their own space — and expose our community to this.”
The podcast was a logical step, since it underscored The Clear Cut’s content-driven focus: “What if this sparks inspiration in one of our followers, that would be amazing. We had also simultaneously launched a ring called “The Spark Ring,’ which is a daily reminder of your own spark, which represents the fire inside you that helps motivate you and keep you going.”
As for the (near) future of The Clear Cut?
“Right now, we’re working on a software to help scale the remote experience and make it more enjoyable for all of our clients.”
On the product front, although the brand’s core business stems from custom diamond engagement rings, The Clear Cut also sells wedding bands and other jewelry items, including an upcoming zodiac collection.
In this new era where physical spaces have become a more fragile concept, The Clear Cut’s remote business model can serve as brilliant inspiration for other businesses.