As some of you who have been following along know, my very first piece of jewelry that was released from my very first jewelry collection was the (below, left) Elephants on parade necklace. This was back in February, check it out here. This necklace has been my bestseller – it is very popular (it has already sold out once) and it’s been featured on a number of blogs and been pinned all over Pinterest. In other words, it’s a B celebrity. So, coincidentally (or not – you can decide) Forever 21 comes out with their $10.80 version about two months ago (give or take) which would have left just enough lead time in the world of jewelry manufacturing for them to see something from a small, independent designer, bring it to their overseas mass producers, then make and release their own. Even name it the same thing – the “Elephant Parade Necklace.” And with their corporate budget, you can be sure theirs is now coming up first in every search result, Grrrrrrr!!! If they didn’t have such a track record of doing this, oh once, twice, or actually DOZENS of times before, I wouldn’t be quite so irritated or suspicious.
I actually debated writing this post at all (I have been aware of theirs since it was released) until I came across THIS splurge/save post written by Southern Flair. What Forever 21 did could aptly be called a “knock-off”. It is a cheaper copy of something nice, playing off the popularity of something more unique, more high end and yes, more expensive. The Canal Street of Elephant necklaces if you will. So I thought I’d take a minute to explain why mine is more expensive as well why this whole scenario is a problem. Because when you buy the cheap version of something you are not actually getting the same thing at a better price – you are actually getting a cheaper thing.
1) My necklace is made in the US and labor here is more expensive because we have laws to protect factories and big companies from taking advantage of their workers, companies like, AHEM, FOREVER 21. I did this on purpose because I believe in American made work. Expanding on this subject, consider reading Over-Dressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion and understand the actual cost of getting cheap clothes and accessories, such as this tragedy.
2) My adorable elephants are linked trunk to tail. That means each trunk/tail is hand soldered together. It is cast from a lead free, white metal in an envoronmentally friendly factory. So, it is partly handmade. Which means it is strong. The chain and the elephants will not break and they were made with care. And the factory I work with is a nice clean, and reputable place.
3) I plate my jewelry extremely well in one of the most reputable plating houses in the country. My Elephants On Parade Necklace is 14K gold plated with something called an E-Coat which further protects the high grade plating from tarnish and wear. Now I don’t shop at F21, but have bought the occasional $10 piece of jewelry in my life and they usually don’t stay new and shiny forever. There is just no way to do a high grade gold plating and still sell something for $10 and make a profit. And Forever 21 is definitely not a non profit.
3.5) I ship mine with an awesome box and candy – not a sh*#tty yellow bag : )
In other words, my Elephants On Parade necklaces will last for years to come. I wear mine all the time, it gets sweat on it (I live in the South) – it’s been in the ocean, the pool, baking in the sun. It still looks great. And personally, I think the design is better – the matte finish is much classier and the trunk to tail linking is much more whimsical. Maybe it’s good to splurge a little – sometimes more expensive is actually better. Maybe it’s because I am in my 30′s and not my 20′s and I am interested in owning and making good things that last longer, instead of things I wouldn’t mind leaving behind on a dance floor somewhere. But more than that, no one likes their nice design copied in a cheaper, faster way with a lot less integrity. So, like all frustrated small business owners and designers who had this happen before and run every aspect of their business themselves, I feel the pain of it. But in the long run, I will put out new designs, and I still believe strongly in what I am doing – not making jewelry as a merely trend or to be thrown away after a few nights out, but making pieces you will have for a long time and return to again and again.
- Deirdre Zahl, owner & designer at Candy Shop Vintage