Retail

Kinn Studio Finds Its DTC Legacy The Hard Way

Kinn Studio Finds Its DTC Legacy The Hard Way

For Kinn Studio CEO Jennie Yoon, having a family legacy is important.

When PYMNTS interviewed her for this feature she was toting her own legacy, her 1-year-old daughter. And when she talks about family heirlooms, she said she knows her stuff the hard way.

Kinn is a direct-to-consumer (DTC) company that takes hand-designed, locally crafted jewelry very seriously. That’s because a few years ago, the Yoon family house in Los Angeles was broken into and all the jewelry that was meant to be handed down to the next generation was stolen. It included Yoon’s grandmother’s engagement ring, family wedding rings and other items that are simply irreplaceable. So, she decided to make some replacements herself.

“My friends were starting to ask, ‘Can you make me this? Can you make me that?’” she said. “I mean, I knew how to put together a website from previous experience, and I think there was, like, less than 10 pieces available. But that’s when I knew I had customers, and it kind of spun into an actual business. I knew I wanted to eventually have a family one day, and I wanted to make sure that these pieces, whatever I’m creating, it’s something that I can pass on because, technically, those pieces that were stolen were supposed to be passed on to me and my brother. So, I wanted to make sure I could do that for my kids.”

Kinn has now grown into one of the hottest DTC jewelry lines, featuring elements such as gold and pearl that can be handed down through generations. The kinds of pieces Yoon designs, and then manufactures in her own Los Angeles-based factory, are perhaps best explained in New York Magazine’s recent review where Kinn was named one of the best online jewelers.

“Kinn believes that jewelry should last a lifetime, so the company uses high-end materials and timeless designs to create what they call ‘modern heirlooms,’” the magazine states. “Although the jewelry tends to be minimalist, there are enough unique elements to distinguish the pieces … from what you might pick up at a department store. Each item is made from 14k solid-gold in L.A. and sourced from fair-trade factories and laborers.”

“Kinn offers modern, timeless designs (and earrings that don’t irritate even the most sensitive of lobes) with the highest-quality gold from local and ethical sources for much less than you’d pay at a typical department store,” the magazine added.

Yoon said those ethical sources are important to her. The Responsible Jewellery Council has certified Kinn as a responsibly-sourced brand for using ethical and traceable factories and mines for her jewelry.

“We only work with manufacturers that are able to provide us with this information,” she said. “And we’re not just doing fact checks, we’re digging deep with the manufacturers because a lot of the times the jewelry industry is a bit old school. Typically, when you ask a manufacturer a question like that, they’re kind of like, ‘OK, I don’t really want to work with you.’ So, it took me a while to find a manufacturer that was very open book about it because, again, I’m not in a position where I’m buying tons and tons of gold. So, what happens typically is that we work with manufacturers who are adhering to the doctrine of transactions with the Responsible Jewellery Council, but it’s our job as a brand to make sure that they are living up to those standards.”

As people locked into their houses with their families, Yoon’s business took off. She said she had expected to take a hit from the pandemic, ceding those expendable dollars to the race to buy essential supplies. But she said she believes in the investment angle of jewelry as well as the need to pass that jewelry on. In terms of changing consumer behavior, Yoon said she would like to think that the eCommerce movement toward luxury goods will expand to include more products, more lifestyles and more demographics.

“I’d like to see people stay open-minded for all purchases, especially on the higher-ticket items,” she said. “I’ll talk about my mom, for example. She just never shopped online. I think this pandemic has, in a way, [forced] her to figure that process out. With that, I do think that the online business will continue to rise. … in terms of retail, I don’t think it’s necessarily going away as we know it. … department stores are hurting a bit, but people want to be out of the house. They want to be in a shopping environment. Maybe as retailers, it’s our job as a brand to bring a different experience for consumers. The traditional idea of sitting on a bunch of inventory just simply hasn’t worked. I’m optimistic about the online business. It will continue to grow.”

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