Jewelry holds the power to transform the mundane into something special.
Whether it’s a pair sparkling diamond earrings, or a simple beaded necklace draped around the neck, it’s hard to go wrong with jewelry. It has held significance in fashion for as long as 40,000 years, and up to this day, consumers can’t get enough.
Depending on whether pieces are made by hand or machine, fashion jewelry production is an art. From designing, casting, assembling to final polishing, this process can take up to 3 days to almost a month.
As business-owners and brand builders in the jewelry industry, knowing where to source the best material and production practices is integral to the shiny and shimmery world of jewelry.
Made in China
It’s no secret that China comes in as one of, if not the, biggest player in global manufacturing. At one point in time, we’ve all seen the words “Made in China”— may it be sewn across fabric or engraved on the back of a gadget. Manufacturing has been a major player in China’s economic rise. China has produced products for an array of industries— from apparel, technology, agriculture, to pharmaceuticals— you name it, China has made it. Competitive prices and low wages are also major factors for China’s manufacturing success.
Tagged as “The Workshop of the World” for the past two decades, a recent study reports that China’s factories are valued at $3.7 trillion today.
China’s major success in the manufacturing world comes with a price. Throughout the years, the giant has been hit with multiple claims of unethical labor practices. Another report claims that the labor force of the electronic manufacturing world faces poor working conditions such as excessive working hours, below minimum wage earnings, and exposure to health and safety hazards.
These practices are common across industries. Big name brands such as H&M, Uniqlo, Nike, and Gucci have all faced heat in the media for participating in ethically unacceptable manufacturing practices in China.
From Y to Z
These unethical practices are most likely to be troublesome for the new age of shoppers. In a 2019 report, McKinsey and Company highlights the spotlight shift from millennial consumers to Gen Z. These shoppers build more affinity with brands whose values match theirs.This generation has integrated their fight against social and environmental issues in their daily rituals, shopping included.
Not only is this generation of consumers more conscious about the brands they support, they are also extremely unafraid to call out those they don’t. The new age shoppers believe in brand accountability, criticizing brands who jump on social bandwagons and treat advocacy as marketing gimmicks.
Case in point Pepsi’s 2017 ad with Kendall Jenner. Both the brand and the model missed the mark in showing support for the Black Lives Matter movement. An outraged audience accused Pepsi of trivializing the dangers of protests and police brutality.
Brands must take into account that Gen Z has their eye on genuine brands who follow through on their advocacies.
Listening to this group of shoppers is crucial. It is reported that Gen Z currently makes up 40% of consumers world-wide and represents around $150 billion in spending power in the US alone.
With a rapidly growing new age of shoppers with an eye for ethical and socially-acceptable manufacturing practices, brands can look to Indonesia for their fashion jewelry production needs.
A 2015 study on Jewelry trends in Indonesia identifies four factors that contribute to the flourish of this industry, namely:
1. Authenticity- products whose designers put much effort into storytelling
2. Customization- handmade and not made my machine
3. Originality- hard to find and one-of-a-kind products
4. Affordability- quality products that give value for money
Local brands and designers thrive in Indonesia’s creative industry as it is heavily supported by its government. Manufacturing is one of the country’s biggest economic drivers. With skilled workers and competitive wages, its government aims to transform Indonesia as an export-oriented nation. There are now policies in place that benefit small and medium business owners through training and development.
This has led to an exponential increase in foreign investors in different industries, including jewelry.
Not only does the country’s jewelry industry pride itself with its people and government, but its bread and butter lies in its natural resources. Its high quality gold, silver, diamonds, pearls, and gemstones makes the country a major player in the ASEAN manufacturing market.
Indonesia has a perfect formula that has equated into a flourishing jewelry manufacturing industry—ethical production practices, high quality material, and government support.
Empowering the Women of Bali
Susila Jewelry is a manufacturer that embodies the desires of Gen Z shoppers. Reflected in their manifesto “Be Good- Do Good” the company prides itself in how it treats its employees, its products, and partner-designers. Women empowerment is at the forefront of their business. Located in Bali, Indonesia,
Susila Jewelry works with local jewelry designers. Made up of mostly mothers in the community, this set-up allows them to provide for their families while gaining career independence for themselves.
The company doesn’t stop there. It has built relationships with multiple partners within the community to help serve underprivileged children. The brand also holds itself accountable by only using ethically-sourced materials and by offering sustainable, plastic-free options for production.
Read more about Susila Jewelry and their social projects here.
Piecing it Together
Brands have to keep in mind that Gen Z shoppers are willing to spend on brands, but only if their values align. Though China has proven its success in manufacturing, it also has a track record for shoddy working environments. Indonesia’s fashion jewelry production industry possesses the values Gen Z expects from brands. Business owners can look to Indonesia where local jewelry designers thrive in an environment where authenticity, quality, and government support is celebrated.