Archive for the ‘Bali Jewelry’ Category

Silver Jewelry and al-Qaeda in Bali: (A Finale)

Monday, October 4th, 2010

The only thing left to do – in this exhausting buying process — was for me to formalize the details with the factory. Don’t forget, Susan (the buyer) and I (the owner) go through this process every time we ‘work’ with a new factory.

When we’ve been buying from a factory for a year or so, we skip the administrative stuff unless there has been a problem, i.e. late shipments, poor quality or whatever.

We usually complete two of these ‘visits’ a day. Sometimes, however, when the factory owner asks us join him – and usually his family – for dinner or lunch — the process can take all day. When we are invited, we accept since, in many cultures, it’s rude not to. In many foreign countries, the fine line between business and family is often blurred.

Susan, Barney, Dong and I took a few minutes off before we started the ‘administrative’ phase – as I called it. We ‘schmoozed,’ (yes, I’m from New York), a few minutes about the marvelous weather, our hotel, kite flying and al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda, as it turns out, has a habit of blowing up popular Bali nightclubs frequented by Australians. As a matter of fact, that’s one of the reason Barney has heavily armed guards at the front and back gates. The lighthearted banter had turned too serious. It was time to get back to work.

The first thing I did was ask Barney if Susan could have a quick tour of the factory. I wanted to make sure it was – in fact – a quality jewelry factory and not a wholesaler pretending to be a factory. I also wanted it well managed so I could count on it if, by chance, one of our customers placed a big order. Could Barney deliver?

Susan and Dong left for the tour.

I asked Barney how quick could he deliver the order Susan placed. He gave the standard reply: four to six weeks. It’ll be six to eight weeks for the iDesign samples.

Al Qaeda, as it turns out, has a habit of blowing up popular Bali nightclubs frequented by Australians.

Barney and I discussed his payment terms. His were the standard terms offered by new factories; 30% with order and 70% when notified ready for shipment, or FOB airport. These terms are stringent, but once a relationship is established, they’re relaxed. After a while, terms from foreign manufacturers can be better than from some US suppliers.

I reminded Barney of our red-covered, quality control “Movement Tolerances and Delivery Standards Manual” which we had given Dong a little while ago. If Dong’s people followed the standards, invoicing and shipping procedures the relationship between our offices should be a piece of cake.

We are always annoyed – the manual covers this in detail — about careless administrative mistakes. We call those “Ooops Problems”. Late shipments, missing invoices, short shipment, he got the idea. We are always annoyed and does nothing to build a solid relationship between our companies.

After about 45 minutes, Susan and Dong returned from the tour. She gave me a subtle nod. The factory was fine – in her eyes anyway. (I’m still not sure what Susan knows about manufacturing jewelry, but you can get a quick sense of how the place is managed just by being observant and asking lots of questions. After touring about 50 factories, though, Susan should know something.)

After a nice toast to new friends and the start of a new business relationship, Barney and Dong escorted us to the car. Our driver/agent/guide was playing cards with the tough-looking armed guards on a picnic table near the fortified front gate. He ran over, packed up our bags, put them in the trunk and started the car.

Since we had become friends, Barney and Dong hugged both of us.

As we drove off, we took a deep breath. One down, three to go, I said to no one in particular.

Beautiful Silver Jewelry in Bali : Meet Barney Fife, (Part 4)

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Within a few minutes, the Factory Manager, Mr. Sanadrij Dong, appeared.  Wearing the male version of the colorful Bali sarong, Dong (first names are last and last names are first in Asian culture), bowed instead of shaking hands. Another element of Asian tradition. (Dong is pictured on the left.)

Dong sat down next to Barney Fife’s look-alike (the factory owner), and faced Susan and me, Jan Brassem,  from across the table. He smiled. He was a short man, (5’2” I would guess), with a well-traveled wrinkled face. With 580 jewelry people working for him, he must have been a skilled and experienced jewelry manager.

Turning to Barney, he said something in Bali. Evidentially, Mr. Sanadrij doesn’t speak English. Barney would have to translate.

Working with translators, has a few important features. First, since the conversation goes through a third party, everything, obviously, takes twice as long, allowing you more time to think. Second, since longer sentences have ‘fuzzier’ meaning, they quickly become shorter. (It’s amazing how precise people can be when they have to be.)

Finally, it is important not to interrupt when sentences are being translated (That was hard for me, since “interrupting” is one of my irritating habits.)

After both Barney and Dong signed our formal Nondisclosure Agreement, I handed the blue lapis sterling silver iDesign — a watch – to Dong. The watch was one of our simplest. (It’s pictured on the right, below) He turned to Barney with the surprised look that Susan and I had seen before. I asked Dong, via Barney, if his people could design a series of those – but with the same technology.

“The person who came up with this idea is either crazy or a genius,” Dong said.

Dong was going to look under the hood — so to speak. He held the lapis  iDesign watch in his gnarled fingers and studied it. Deep in thought, I waited while he studied. Wait! Wait, I told myself, Dude, let him think.

Dong asked a few technical questions, (What’s this and why’s that?), while absorbing and processing the answers. Every time he understood something, he smiled. “…very clever.”

“The person who came up with this idea is either crazy or a genius,” Dong said. “I’m not crazy,” I said in a huff. Susan said she wasn’t sure. I wasn’t smiling.

“Yes, we can design a series of these and simplify the internal movement a little,” Dong said. “It’ll be fun and challenging for me and my jewelers. …something different after all these years.”

Barney asked if we would supply some watch movements and the “Patent-Applied-For” tech-components. Susan said she’ll ask the factory to FEDEX enough pieces for the six-each samples, plus a few extras.

Susan reached into her briefcase and handed Barney a copy of our bright-red formal Quality Control “Movement Tolerances and Delivery Standards Manual.” For the second time today, Barney was surprised. “There is no point,” Susan told him, “In making great designs without perfect quality. Without excellent quality, everyone looses.”

To Be Continued…….

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Bali: Cue the Trumpets. Introducing Our Silver Styles. (Part 3)

Friday, September 17th, 2010

After two hours of analyzing, fine-tuning and buying over 80 samples, Susan was mentally exhausted. In her best New York accent, she asked one of the pretty assistants for a cup of tea.

She turned to me and gave me an approving nod. So, in her professional opinion, this factory had good styling and quality. Since Susan didn’t want any second-guessing on her final selection – not a word from the ‘peanut gallery’, (Another harrumph) – I was getting bored.

It was finally my turn. The boss, Jan Brassem, gets his turn.

The factory owner – kind of a grizzled Barney Fife look alike with cigarette stained fingers – turned his attention to me. Now came the tricky part.

A few years ago, we had developed an extremely popular silver jewelry brand. We were wondering, I asked Barney, if his factory could design and produce a few, (two or three), original designs for us. If successful, we could potentially sell thousands. They would have to be exclusive to us and made from scratch.

“Of course. We would love to,” said Barney.

Cue the trumpets. Our brand, known as Eclipse iDesigns, contains a unique, small, micro-mechanical component.  The brand’s name shortened to iDesigns, allows the wearer to change the silver style’s look, color even character – with only the slightest touch.

Each design contains a self-contained ‘movement’ – much like a simple watch movement. Many of the movements have patents pending. “Simply put,” I told Barney, “iDesigns combines two current and big-time consumer appeals, beautiful silver jewelry with simple technology. … never been done before.”

Barney gave me that ‘deer-in-the-headlights’  look. Susan smiled — she had seen that before.

The brand, known as iDesigns, allows the wearer to change the silver style’s look, color even character – with only the slightest touch.

To make it even more confusing, Susan chimed in with some more details. “The wearer can’t see the movement, the cost of the style doesn’t change and you don’t need a crowbar to make it change.”

“It was developed with ‘outside-the-box’ thinking,” she continued.

By this time, Barney was thoroughly dumbfounded, even mystified. I reached into my briefcase and pulled out three popular iDesigns. The first, a silver lapis bracelet that transforms into a watch. The second, a silver filigree pendant that converted from onyx to turquoise. The third was an earrings that changed from puffed heart to blue topaz.

Oh, did I mention, I told Barney that the iDesign ‘technology’ uses bearings, hinges, computer codes and algorithms as well as other tech components under extremely close tolerances. Most factory managers find iDesigns challenging and enervating — especially after working in a  tedious jewelry factory for years, generations.  Just ask your factory manager,” I said. 

Barney, amazed, took a deep breath, and asked one of the assistants to get his factory manager. She ran to the phone.

To be continued…

Bali: Buying Silver Jewelry (Part 2)

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

The sun-lit room smelled like Orchids. My buyer, Susan, and me, Jan Brassem, were sitting next to each other along side a long dark wooden table facing the factory owner.  One assistant was standing behind him while the other rolled in a cart loaded with trays. Each tray must have held at least 100 jewelry styles.

Our first day in Bali was nothing more than a paid vacation. It was finally time to get to work. Susan took out a raft of computer generated sales, profit, style/type reports. She had done her homework.

Like many jewelry buyers, she was under the gun — so to speak. It was time for her to apply her taste, design knowledge, manufacturing know-how, cost breakdown, experience, negotiating skill, financial knowledge, you get the idea. Her work could spell the success or failure of my jewelry store’s season.

Concentration was key. She had to analyze each design, its cost, markup, quality, customer tastes and who knows what else. She asked me – I was just an observer now – not to talk or banter with the owner or flirt with the pretty assistants. Hummphhh.

• She knew what styles, types and price-points our customers preferred.

• She knew what kind of designs, (basic, fancy, ornate, etc.), our customers bought.

She had to analyze each design, its cost, markup, quality, customer tastes and who knows what else

• She knew what margins, (at least keystone), we had budgeted for the season. Susan would look at each style she had ‘pre-selected’, (these were put in a special tray), and once she went through their entire line, she would ‘review’ the pre-selected tray to be sure each design could ‘carry’ the necessary retail price. If it couldn’t it was returned to the cart.

• Known for its special designs, (she had done her homework here too), she selected styles that had the Bali ‘look’. There was no point in selecting styles that could be bought in other parts of the world — or even in the US. We were, after all, trying to differentiate our store from the competition.

Bali styling was indeed unique. Whether due to the island being remote, the silver jewelry artisans having special skills or who knows what, Bali jewelry had two special features.

Classical Bali Chain Bracelet

The first was Bali’s hand-made rope/chain look. Highly labor intensive, (machine made rope/chain jewelry looks like, well, machine made jewelry), the man-made designs were beautiful and unique to Bali.

The Bali artisans were also skilled at carving faces and animals on small semi-precious stones. These faces were then set in silver creating beautiful pendants and brooches. Almost one-of-a-kind works of art.

When Susan finished, (all her choices were now in one previously empty tray), she would total up the cost of her selection. Since she had budgeted a certain dollar amount for each of the four factories we planned on visiting, she could add a few pieces to the tray or take a few out.

The buying process, however, was far from over.

To Be Continued……

Bali: Silver Jewelry & Kites (Part 1)

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

dreams-kiteA while ago, my silver jewelry buyer and me, Jan Brassem, left New York on a sourcing junket, er, mission, to Bali, Indonesia. We were looking to add some unique Bali designs to our branded sterling silver line and check out Bali’s sophisticated jewelry manufacturing expertise. More on that later.

As you probably know, Bali is arguably the most beautiful spot on earth – considered the Australian Riviera. James Mitchner wrote South Pacific with the island in mind. “No wonder you want to go,” the buyer told me.

Bali is arguably the most beautiful spot on earth – considered the Australian Riviera. James Mitchner wrote South Pacific with the island in mind.

The flight, via Hong Kong, lasted 20 hours. When we arrived at the Bali International Airport, we adjusted to the slow customs check-in. (What’s a computer?) Hurry up and wait, (we’re from New York after all). But we had no choice

Other than that, the airport was bedlam — Bali’s definition of organization. We kept our eyes open and hoped for the best. Exhausting.

We selected a taxi – or rather a taxi selected us – and left for the hotel. Our agent-guide-translator would meet us there. The taxi ride was –well, read for yourself  — and see the YouTube video.

• Kites filled the clear blue sky. Kite flying is Bali’s national pastime.
• Huge, ornate, carved statues guard many street corners.
• There is no speed limit. We arrived at the hotel shaking and in one piece
• The men are handsome, the woman beautiful
• With an abundance of teak, inexpensive labor and cheap land, hotels were all on one level and gorgeous. Never seen any hotel like them.
• There were lots of Australians.
• One negative. While we were leaving, al-Qaeda blew up a local bar frequented by Australian tourists. The island is mostly Muslim.
• Everything, (trinkets, furniture, souvenirs) is teak. Given enough time, (a few days) they will carve anything to your specifications.

We arrived at the first factory early the next day. The rifle toting guard/sentry, after opening the barbed wire-topped gate, let us in. Inside was a bustling compound – a fort of sorts. Much of the factory labor was done outdoors.

We were led inside to a long dark showroom. Everything Teak.

The  Australian owner introduced himself and his two attractive female assistants. The assistants wore typical wrap-around sarongs and spoke no English.

They brought out the trays of silver samples…..We began to work.…..

To be continued…..