Want to cover yourself in pretty gold jewelry without breaking the bank? Thanks to new business models and manufacturing options, it's no longer necessary to shell out more than a couple hundred dollars for a decent pair of gold hoops, stackable rings or layer-able necklaces. Missoma, a rapidly growing direct-to-consumer brand, is positioning itself as a reliable go-to for jewelry at this price point, often referred to as "demi-fine."
In 2007, founder Marisa Hordern quit her corporate job at luxury goods firm Richemont to turn her longtime jewelry-making hobby and childhood passion for gemstones into a business, despite not having any design training. Even with experience, trying to sell jewelry to millennials is quite a difficult task these days, but Hordern has done it by nailing the right combination of design, quality, price point, distribution, celebrity and influencer associations and social media savvy. The UK-based brand grew 350 percent last year, is on track to grow 200 percent this year and recently closed a round of funding to make a major push into the U.S. market, which already made up 20 percent of Missoma's customer base organically. It's also frequently worn by the likes of Margot Robbie, Kaia Gerber and Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle. (Maybe you've heard of her?)
The brand's success didn't happen overnight — and it's evolved quite a bit from its first iteration as a gemstone-driven wholesale brand — as it launched during the height of Boho in the mid-aughts. "It was Matthew Williamson in the UK, and when Sienna Miller first became well known, and it was like that really colorful, bohemian phase," explains Hordern. "There was no jewelry out there that was affordable. Everything that you see was either really, really expensive, like fine jewelry, or really cheap and tacky. I wanted something that I could wear, and that I could also afford."
It took a bit of trial and error for Missoma to find its niche. "We tried out different metals, different price points, and even at the beginning, we were a little bit more expensive going to a bit of and older audience, and now — about four years ago, I would say — we just found that perfect combination of the right price point...we found exactly who our target audience was," says Hordern. She sees her customer as someone in her 20s who's in the beginning stages of her career and still figuring out her personal style, which she wants to use jewelry to express. "It looks like very delicate, fine jewelry, and it's affordable," explains Horden of the brand's appeal. "It's the kind of jewelry you put on and you don't need to take off." Most pieces are made with gold vermeil, meaning a sterling silver base plated with a thick layer of real gold, and in the $50-$200 range. New pieces and collections drop every few weeks.
The line is manufactured primarily in India under rigorous ethical and quality standards according to Hordern. "They're all audited. We're very conscious of that, and the health and safety, and how they're paid," she says of Missoma's factories. "We have two people on the ground that are constantly checking everything. I go out myself, four times a year. We spent a long time getting the color of the gold right. The quality, the weight, the micro plating."
It was about four years ago that Hordern made the decision to take Missoma direct-to-consumer, which also helped with hitting the right price point, and allowed the company to make informed decisions around new styles based on what customers were looking for. It's also invested more resources into social media and having a robust, advanced e-commerce platform; last Black Friday, its website crashed, and the company is taking pains to ensure that won't happen again this year (or ever). It's since dipped its toes back into wholesale: In the U.S., select pieces are available at Nordstrom.com as a means of building exposure.
Then there's the whole celebrity/influencer piece. As we all know, Meghan Markle wearing something does not exactly hurt a brand's sales. "We've been supported organically by so many great, great people who wear it everyday, and just seem to love it," says Hordern, referring to celebrities and influencers. "I think that's what people connect with is the authenticity of it all." She says a whopping 70 percent of the brand's sales can be traced to Instagram. "It doesn't mean that the sales come directly from Instagram, but at some point in their journey, they're discovering it on Instagram," she clarifies. The brand also partnered with UK-based influencer Lucy Williams on a design collaboration. With nearly 400K followers and the sort of cool-girl personal style that feels both inspiring and accessible, she's turned out to be a great fit and sales-driver for the brand. The Roman Arc coin necklaces from her collection are among the brand's best sellers.
Now that Missoma has established itself and gotten its head above water, Hordern is focusing on things like expansion, particularly in the U.S. where there's already interest, hiring for C-suite roles, personalization and environmental responsibility.
She recently spent some time in Los Angeles, where she and Williams hosted an event for influencers, and where she's fairly certain Missoma will establish its U.S. headquarters (she'd been deciding between there and New York). Already, the brand offers free shipping to the U.S. On the personalization front, Missoma offers the typical letter engraving offered by most jewelry retailers, but also created its own proprietary engraving program wherein customers can actually sketch anything they want and have it engraved; all of it is complimentary.
Hordern also wants to spend more time educating customers about the craftsmanship that goes into each piece and its dedication to ethical manufacturing. The company also plans to try and offset some of its carbon footprint on Black Friday by agreeing to plant one tree for every order it ships out between Nov. 21 and 26. (It's worth noting there's been some criticism of this practice in general.)
From the direct-to-consumer model to the influencer marketing to the goals of ethical transparency, Missoma clearly knows what it takes to get millennials on board. Given the growth it's experienced already, it feels safe to say we'll be seeing a lot more of it in the coming year.