Kristen Mara and Garnet Hill - The Perfect Partnership

September 01, 2021

Kristen Mara and Garnet Hill - The Perfect Partnership

Garnet Hill’s commitment to quality craftsmanship, attention to detail, and sustainability align perfectly with Kristen Mara’s brand values. As a loyal customer of the iconic national online and catalog brand, I felt connected to Garnet Hill long before they began carrying my jewelry. Garnet Hill’s design aesthetic, sensibility, and commitment to simplicity and a quality product are why I was interested in partnering with them. I felt it would be a good fit for both of us. 

Unsure of how they would receive me, I bravely made the first move and forged ahead by simply calling the main number and asking for the name and contact information of the accessories buyer. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know, right?

Name in hand, I contacted the buyer and asked if I could send my wholesale catalog (called line sheets in the industry) and introduce my line. She seemed open to viewing my jewelry.

Then one late Sunday evening in January 2017, I received an email from the buyer, indicating that Garnet Hill wanted to carry two of my designs! Wahooo! I was so excited! Sitting in my living room, at my computer, I shouted upstairs to my two kids - who had just gone to bed - and told them that we got into Garnet Hill! I still remember their sleepy voices, “That's great, Mom!” Clearly, they weren’t as exuberant in the moment as I was : )

Learning the ropes.

It was new territory for me to transition from working on a few pieces at a time for small boutiques or individual customers to the large volumes required by a big retailer. 

  • One of the most significant differences between working with Garnet Hill and a smaller boutique was the paperwork! 
  • There were forms to sign, legalities to attend to and handbooks to review to make our relationship official as buyer and vendor. 
  • But it was all very manageable, and the buyer, assistant buyer, and staff were phenomenally responsive and helpful. 
  • My relationship with Garnet Hill was off to a great start!

Since that first small order in 2017, we’ve developed a great working relationship

  • Garnet Hill requests new designs every six months for the fall/winter and spring/summer seasons. 
  • Additionally, I’ve offered exclusive designs which they’ve carried. 
  • As a designer, it’s exciting to be able to develop unique designs just for them!

Growing as a designer.

I’ve grown as a designer since working with Garnet Hill, primarily when creating exclusive designs. On any new designs, I work closely with the buyer, back-and-forth, until we develop something they know their customers will love while still staying true to my design aesthetics. I feel valued as an artist and designer, and I love creating something beautiful just for their customers. It’s a fun process.

My design skills and artistry have also evolved, giving me more confidence as an artist and business partner. 

  • I’ve become more aware of customer preferences and small details beyond the design.
  • I understand more about comfort and wearability. 
  • Details such as clasp size, how a pendant slides on a chain, or the shape of an ear wire are all things I’ve learned to pay close attention to.

How wholesale usually works:

  • Most stores work about six months ahead, and each winter and summer, a buyer will reach out to request my line sheets and any new designs.  
  • From photos, the buyer will select the pieces they are interested in for the upcoming season.  
  • Once final designs are selected, I receive a schedule of due dates for shipping the final product, and I get to work filling the order.
  • While each wholesale account is slightly different, most are pretty consistent in their ordering and documentation processes. 

Once I’ve received my final purchase order and know how many of each design I need to make, my production kicks into high gear! 

  • I have very detailed spreadsheets called production sheets that outline the recipe for each design.
  • I use the production sheets to figure out everything I need to make all of the designs. 
  • I determine the number of chains, jump rings, ear wires, and casts I need to order from my caster and suppliers.
  • Once I have those components in hand - usually about four weeks later -  I go into high gear again, cleaning, polishing and assembling. 
  • The entire process takes almost five months, including some extra wiggle room for unexpected errors. 
  • Because of my organized system and Garnet Hill’s very long turnaround time, we can adjust and correct any issues that may arise. 

Mistakes don’t happen often, but we’re human, and sometimes they do. Like the samples I sent that had been photographed for the catalog, and the website, with a bright silver chain. But I mistakenly assembled 100+ necklaces with a dark oxidized chain! Yikes!

We had to unwrap all of the necklaces that were ready to ship and re-do the chains. My assistant and I cranked up the tunes and got to work in the studio for hours to correct the mistake. 

It was definitely a bit stressful, but we also turned it into a good time, and most importantly, we delivered the necklaces that Garnet Hill was expecting – with a bit of extra TLC and on time! Boom! 

To be sure that never happens again, you can believe that I immediately put additional systems in place, including meticulous notes, photos, and samples for every design I create for Garnet Hill. 

 

It’s all in the relationships.

It’s exciting and fun to work with Garnet Hill.  I’ve developed an easy and friendly rapport with the assistant buyer, the inventory manager, and the quality control managers. They care about me both as an artist and a person, and I care about them as well. There’s a genuine warmth and sense of mutual respect and support in all of our correspondence. This is not always the case with wholesale accounts. Some buyer/vendor relationships can be strained or just not a great fit. But with Garnet Hill, it feels like a perfect fit!

I wouldn’t change a thing!

I’m fortunate to have a mutually beneficial relationship with Garnet Hill that continues to grow and evolve over the years. Not every designer is so lucky with their retail partners, so I don’t take this lightly. Instead, I try to do my very best work because I know they value me as a designer and business partner. It doesn’t get any better than this!




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