Dean Davidson’s Journey: From Hobby to Holt Renfrew and Global Success with Jewelry [Interview]

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Craig and Dean discuss the inspiring journey of Dean Davidson‘s jewelry brand, from its humble beginnings as a hobby to becoming a successful line carried by prestigious retailers like Holt Renfrew.

They delve into the design process, materials used, and future plans, including the possibility of expanding into homeware. Dean shares insights into his demographic, awards, and the opening of his first physical store in Toronto.

The interview reveals the brand’s global distribution, carried by major names in the industry. They wrap up with Dean’s vision for the future, focusing on further expansion and introducing homeware to their retail boutiques.

A transcript of the conversation can be found below.

The Interview Series video podcasts by Retail Insider Canada are available through our Retail Insider YouTube Channel where you can subscribe and be notified when new video episodes are available.

If you prefer to listen to the audio version, it is available below:

The Interview Series audio podcasts by Retail Insider Canada are available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or through our dedicated RSS feed for Overcast and other podcast players. Also check out our The Weekly audio podcast where Craig and Lee discuss popular content published on Retail Insider which is part of the The Retail Insider Podcast Network.

Transcription

Craig Patterson 0:03
Welcome to the Retail Insider Video Interview series. I’m your host, Craig Patterson, and we’re joined here today with a special guest. This is Dean Davidson. He’s the founder of a very well-known jewelry business with the same name, Dean Davidson. Welcome, Dean.

Dean Davidson 0:17
Great. Thank you for having me.

Craig Patterson 0:19
Let’s talk a little bit about your brand. First of all, how did you get started?

Dean Davidson 0:25
So I started in spring of 2008. I actually used to work in a completely different field. I worked in agriculture. And I was on a trip probably my first big international trip to South Africa. I bought a bracelet in a market in Cape Town brought them back to Calgary I was living and I started making them kind of as a hobby, ended up getting introduced to a clothing designer in Calgary, Paul Hardy, and I designed jewelry to complement his clothing collection. And we went to New York Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week and LA and then Holt Renfrew picked up that line. And I ended up enrolling in jewelry design classes at A-CAD in Calgary. And then three years later, I launched my first solo collection, and that’s 15 years ago.

Dean Davidson (Image: Erin Leydon)

Craig Patterson 1:44

That’s incredible. So you kind of got started with a passion and from there, you designed a line that got picked up by Holt Renfrew, which is, you know, the most respected large format luxury retailer in Canada. How did that all happen? Did they come to you?

Dean Davidson 1:54
So we built a relationship. I said the line that I designed was carried alongside the clothing in the Toronto location of Holt Renfrew. And so when we parted ways, I approached them with my very first collection, actually called “The Davidson by Dean Davidson,” and they picked up that very first collection.

Craig Patterson 1:44
Tell me about the jewelry itself. Is it called Demi or… tell me a little bit about the stones that are used, the metals, the price point as well.

Dean Davidson 1:54
So it’s called Demi-fine jewelry. It’s really kind of indiscernible from fine jewelry, but at a much better price point. We worked with a family-owned factory in Jaipur, India, and they specialize in making fine jewelry. They’ve actually made jewelry for the royal family of Jaipur. So the quality is really strong. We use semi-precious gemstones. Our base metal is high-quality brass. And then we plate it with 22-karat gold, rhodium, or silver colour.

Craig Patterson 2:23
Excellent. In terms of product types, tell me about your necklaces, rings. Tell me about the collection?

Dean Davidson 2:30
Yeah, so we do everything from hoop earrings to necklaces, rings, cocktail rings, which is a big category for us, pendants, statement necklaces. So we kind of run the whole gamut of pieces and inventory.

Craig Patterson 2:45
Are there any other categories as well, beyond jewelry, yet?

Dean Davidson 2:49
Yes. So we’re kind of dabbling in homewares a little bit. That’s part of the future plans that the brand would love to move into home objects, objects for the home that complement our jewelry pieces.

Dean Davidson at 145 Berkley (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Craig Patterson 3:03
Oh, great. We’ll talk more about the future as well. Because do you have a core demographic or a certain consumer who you found is buying your jewelry?

Dean Davidson 3:13
Yeah, so our demographic would be women, I would say from 35 to 70, would be our age bracket that appreciates our designs.

Dean Davidson 3:26
Excellent. And you won a Canadian art and fashion award in 2019. I was actually there. Tell us about the award. How did that go down?

Dean Davidson 3:34
Yeah, so I was nominated for the award in 2019 and felt very fortunate to win and to be acknowledged by my peers in the industry. And yeah, it was just a great honor and it’s so nice that the CAPA has formed and it’s acknowledging Canadian artists. So I just felt very fortunate to be one of them.

Dean Davidson (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Craig Patterson 3:56
Congratulations. It’s amazing. And now you’ve opened your first actual physical store. This was quite recent, and it’s in Toronto, in Cabbagetown South. Can you tell us about the store and how it came about?

Dean Davidson 4:08
Yeah, so we were actually, thanks to our loyal customers who have seen a lot of growth in our business, I was actually looking for a larger office space. And I found this really beautiful building with a retail component on the main floor. And so we decided it was time to jump into a boutique. And we created a really beautiful, serene environment. It feels kind of like a loft apartment, a place you would want to hang out in and spend the day and just look at beautiful jewelry. So we were really happy, and we are excited now to have that full experience for the customer from the time they step in the door until they put their jewelry on when they’re at home.

Craig Patterson 4:51
Now tell me about your distribution globally. We had a journalist write an article about 250 stores, I think, around the world. It could be a bigger number. Now tell me a bit about it. Who’s carrying the Dean Davidson line?

Dean Davidson 5:03
So some of the more notable names would be Saks, Nordstrom, Harvey Nichols Hong Kong. We’re carried in a large department store in Spain, Four Seasons, and several locations of resorts and spas around the world. And then several boutiques. So we have specialty stores mainly in Canada and the US.

Craig Patterson 5:24
Terrific, terrific. El Corte Ingles is probably the Spanish one.

Dean Davidson 5:28
Yes, yes. Yes. Sorry, I couldn’t think of it at the moment. But yes, that’s the one. Yeah, yeah.

Craig Patterson 5:32
Interesting because there are so many locations. Interesting in terms of distribution. So that’s excellent. What do you think towards the future, whether it’s stores, you mentioned home goods? Tell me about your thinking for the future of your brand.

Dean Davidson 5:43
So we want to continue building our wholesale business in the US and internationally. I think we’d like to look at opening more retail locations down the road as well. And then, as far as from a product perspective, introducing homeware. So that would be the extension that we would introduce to our retail boutiques.

Craig Patterson 6:02
Terrific. I look forward to seeing this as it develops in terms of collections. Well, best of luck with everything here in the business. This has been really, really interesting. This has been Dean Davidson, and he’s the founder of his own jewelry brand, Dean Davidson, based in Toronto. Thank you for joining us, Dean.

Dean Davidson 6:25
Great. Thank you for having me.

Craig Patterson 6:27
I’m Craig Patterson, the founder, and publisher of Retail Insider. Thank you so much for watching us today. If you’re watching on our YouTube channel or listening to us on our podcast channel, be sure to subscribe on either if you haven’t already. Thank you so much. Take care and bye for now.

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