Roxanne Assoulin men’s jewelry
Roxanne Assoulin is a maven of reinvention. The New York-based jewelry designer has traversed the fashion industry for four decades, evolving her business strategies with the ever-changing retail climate.
She started her career in the 1970s, when she created hair accessories and leather bracelets, segueing into semi-precious materials in the ’80s. By the ’90s, her company turned into a private-label firm called Lee Angel, which produced collections for wholesale outlets. Throughout the years, she would also create jewelry for leading American fashion brands and mass retailers, always bringing her signature quirk and penchant for bold hues to every design.
Then in 2016, Assoulin launched her namesake jewelry company comprised of collections made of rope, elastic strings, and enamel tiles in a spectrum of colors. It began, perhaps fortuitously, after she played with patterns at her desk, and saw how there was something this could be a viable business proposition. She then reached out to select Instagram influencers and magazine editors to see if her hunch was up to snuff, and with their encouragement, she embarked on her self-professed third act.
Portrait of Roxanne Assoulin
Now, three years in business, Assoulin is expanding into the menswear category, offering the same cutesy collections in larger sizes. Indeed, the women’s line follows the social media-obsessed generation’s obsession with styles that are geared to pop on screen. Men, however, are characteristically more unassuming with how their online persons, which makes the success rate of the new line precarious at best.
Still, Assoulin assures that there is demand for a men’s collection. And has someone who supposedly handles her brand’s Instagram account personally, she is finely tuned into how the market operates and how best to grow her businesses. So, maybe men are looking for colorful options to add to their wardrobes, and she is just ahead of the curve. Assoulin, to be sure, has a breath of experience and has been in the proverbial game long enough to back up her hunches.
Here, the jewelry designer explains how she expanding her company one colorful tile at a time.
Barry Samaha: How would you describe your career trajectory?
Roxanne Assoulin: A happy accident with lots of highs and lows, like many businesses. Being a creative, visual person who loves to make things, I started with hair accessories in the late ’70s and evolved to jewelry in the early ’80s. My first pieces were leather wrap bracelets, and then I moved on to crystals and semi-precious stones —always working with color. I’ve also worked with many designers making jewelry for their runway shows, such as Oscar de la Renta, Marc Jacobs, Stephen Sprouse, and Bill Blass. I designed under my name for about 15 years and then the business evolved into a private-label company named Lee Angel. Over the years, I’ve designed jewelry for so many great brands like J.Crew, Banana Republic, American Eagle, Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie. I’m currently enjoying the third successful act in my career.
Roxanne Assoulin Men’s Jewelry
Samaha: After designing for fashion brands, and starting and closing Lee Angel, what made you decide to launch your namesake label?
Assoulin: It was practically decided for me. The private-label business was going through rough times, as it was so closely tied to struggling retail brick and mortar businesses. Around the same time, Instagram came along and I became an early adopter. One day, I was playing with these small colorful enamel tiles on my desk, arranging them in different patterns, and suddenly thought to myself: This could be a great bracelet. I made a few and I sent them to some friends, among them Leandra Medine of Man Repeller and Selby Drummond, a Vogue editor at the time. I asked them: do you think there is something here? They said yes, and quickly became my biggest champions when I started producing the bracelets. When Leandra posted herself wearing a stack, we sold out within a day. It was the perfect happy storm. I’d been in the business for years, but had never seen a response like this I almost had no choice but to go with it. Lee Angel continues to operate today as a private label division.
Samaha: How does this line differ from what you’ve done in the past?
Assoulin: Everything is new. From the marketing to the line plan to the entire creative process and the connecting directly with customers, everything is so much different from anything I’ve done in the past. At the beginning, when retailers called, we chose to say no for the moment. Our first round of enamel chipped quite a bit, and from past experiences, I knew wholesale would be extremely difficult. I’m glad we waited and chose to focus first on our direct to consumer business.
Samaha: Who is your target consumer?
Assoulin: Anyone who likes to smile. We don’t have a specific target customer. It crosses all ages and genders—and that’s the beauty of it. It’s uncomplicated. It’s a conversation starter, and people tend to connect over it. Strangers become acquainted; children love them, as do their parents and grandparents. I love hearing stories about people making connections over the bracelets, and especially love it when someone gifts one right off their wrist. Ultimately, the bracelets dictate the strategy.
Samaha: Why are you sticking to a direct-to-consumer model? Don’t you think you can have greater visibility if you have some wholesale accounts?
Assoulin: In the past three and a half years, DTC has been on an incline, while traditional retail has been on a decline. So, it made sense for us to focus more on the direct business. I’ve done wholesale my entire career, and I was ready for something new. This felt fresh and exciting to me. There is something new to learn everyday, and I love it. I also enjoy communicating directly with my customers, and you can’t get that level of interaction and insight when you’re working through a buyer. I still handle our Instagram account, and read almost every DM that comes through. We would absolutely have greater visibility with more wholesale accounts. However, we already have amazing relationships with brand-aligned retailers like Net-A-Porter, Moda Operandi, and Shopbop.
Roxanne Assoulin Men’s Jewelry
Samaha: Why are you expanding into men’s jewelry only three years into your business? Is your women’s collection profitable enough to take on a new market?
Assoulin: It was a natural progression. Men have been buying our jewelry since the beginning. We just needed to add more inclusive sizing in bracelets and necklaces for it to become its own collection.
Samaha: How does the men’s line differ from the women’s?
Assoulin: There was a demand for it. All my friends wanted it. It was that simple. My friends were asking me to make custom sizes, and then we started getting DMs requesting men’s sizes. It’s happy and uncomplicated. Men like that, too.
Samaha: Aside from traditional media, how are you looking to raise brand awareness? Are you implementing the same tactics that you used with your women’s line?
Assoulin: Our women’s line launched very organically, and this was no different. We created a social campaign featuring friends of the brand and people we admire. We asked them to take photos and shared them on our Instagram, along with an email campaign. Everyone who participated is a true fan and friend of the brand and that comes through in the content. I wanted it to be real—it’s the only way.
Roxanne Assoulin Men’s Jewelry
Samaha: How are you looking to grow the men’s collection further?
Assoulin: New colors. New categories. We’ll see. I have lots of ideas brewing. It all comes down to timing.
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