Creativity Unchained

Flagship location was designed to complement a jewelry line known for its layers of meaning and brand loyalty. 

 STORY BY EILEEN MCCLELLAND

After developing an iconic line of amulet jewelry, Pyrrha owners Wade and Danielle Papin opened a flagship store in LA that was designed to be a natural extension of their jewelry designs. “It feeds our soul,” says Danielle.

Pyrrha
Los Angeles

URL: pyrrha.com .com
OWNERS: Danielle and Wade Papin
FOUNDED: 1995
OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2010
AREA: 1,000 square feet
EMPLOYEES: 3
BUILDOUT COST: $450,000
ONLINE PRESENCE: 47,947 Facebook followers

Creating the space allowed them to present the collection exactly as they envisioned it to be displayed. It also gave them the opportunity to make a connection with the people who wear the jewelry.

“Every time I talk to someone about what their piece means to them — whether it propels them through a challenge or keeps a mom connected with a daughter who’s away at school — it helps us move forward and be excited to come to work every day,” Danielle says. “People who wear Pyrrha choose their talismans based on what speaks to them. It’s this connection to our customers that Pyrrha is most proud of.”

The decor — ranging from a display shelf made out of books to a 200-year-old dollhouse — lends the otherwise minimalist space a sense of discovery or the feeling of a treasure hunt, much like they expect their jewelry shopping experience to be.

Wade and Danielle met in 1993 and began handcrafting jewelry at their kitchen table in Vancouver, Canada. It was a creative compulsion; they were driven to find an escape from their retail day jobs.

“When we met and started talking about what was exciting to us, it had nothing to do with what we were doing at the time. So we started a business as a part-time thing for side money so we could be OK with regular jobs and be somehow fulfilled,” Danielle says.

They soon realized that there would be an opportunity to sell more jewelry if they had more time, so first Wade quit his job, and within a year, Danielle followed him. “Even though it was difficult, because we were creatively fulfilled, we were willing to give up that safety net.”

They began by making beaded necklaces with wire. Neither had been to jewelry school, so they learned on the fly, graduating to hand-casting and hand-carving. They built on each skill as they learned and introduced mini-collections.

The husband and wife team experimented with a number of styles, materials and techniques before discovering a box of badly damaged wax seals at an estate sale in 2004. The Victorian-era wax seals were the inspiration for Pyrrha’s line of signature talisman jewelry. 

Some established retail clients didn’t like it at first. But by the second season, it had begun to catch on; soon it became so popular it was — and remains — their only collection.

Over the next 10 years, the collection grew to include more than 200 styles of necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings, and charms, garnering the attention of stylists, costume designers and celebrities.

Retail came along even later, in 2010, when the company opened its flagship store filled with antique objects and displays designed to provide what they had envisioned as the perfect setting for the entire collection.

Pyrrha jewelry is all made by hand using old world techniques. Sustainability is also a priority. They cast their jewelry using reclaimed precious metals and work to eliminate waste in every aspect of production, which has earned them both carbon neutral and B Corporation certification.

The organic production process ensures that the authenticity and individuality of each wax seal is maintained. Each talisman has a symbolic meaning culled from heraldry and each piece is sold with a hand-torn card detailing its meaning.

Largely because the jewelry is all about making a personal connection with the wearer, Danielle and Wade longed to meet the customers directly. “It was a natural progression,” Danielle says. 

They’re based in Vancouver and the store is in LA, so they hired a team with an entrepreneurial mind-set, and they visit the store when they can. “We see that it’s running great without us, but we love being there. So we have the best of both worlds.”

They designed the West Hollywood store with help from friends interested in furniture design. “We wanted it to be an interpretation of what our personal world is and to feel like something we would live in, down to the displays made from reclaimed materials. One of the cases in the store is made from an old furnace. We went to a place that pulls old things out of factories and bought this black cabinet thing made for a furnace and we took it to a furniture shop in LA and we said, ‘Here’s this thing! We want it to house jewelry. What do we do with it?’”

From Victorian-era mannequins to custom cedar busts carved by a chainsaw, every element is carefully chosen to inspire the Pyrrha customer. One 15-foot case along a wall is made of a base of 750 vintage books. “First you walk in and think it’s a case, but then you walk up to it and realize it’s books,” Danielle relates. “People try to grab a book and yank on it!”

In Pyrrha world, people become immersed in the scene and spend hours searching for the perfect symbol for themselves and those close to them.


PHOTO GALLERY (16 IMAGES) 


5 Cool Things About Pyrrha

1.WHIMSICAL WINDOWS. One window is consistently a backdrop for a 200-year-old dollhouse used to display the jewelry. Other windows change with the seasons and reflect the creative expression of the brand. One theme was felt animals made by a friend. Says Danielle: “We don’t feel we need to sell in a traditional way because our product is so personal.”

2.HOLLYWOOD CONNECTION. Reese Witherspoon was one of Pyrrha’s first celebrity customers. She bought several pieces, and also commissioned custom gold talismans for wrap gifts. The Pyrrha flagship often plays host to costume designers and stylists looking for jewelry for their productions or to accessorize clients for a photo shoot. Pyrrha jewelry has appeared in films including Wonder, Star Trek, Gone Girl, and World War Z, and in magazines including Vogue, GQ and W. Among celebrity customers of the store are Susan Sarandon, Jaimie Alexander, Richard Madden and Michael C. Hall. In 2014, they collaborated with HBO to launch the official Pyrrha X Game of Thrones Collection, which can be viewed at Pyrrha’s flagship store.

3.AUTHENTIC MARKETING. Facebook in particular works for Pyrrha because there’s room to tell a story. “But really, word of mouth and customer testimonials are the biggest,” Danielle says. “If you’re gifted a piece, chances are you are going to buy a piece for a friend. They are fans of the brand and you can look forward to seeing them again. They share personal, intimate things with our staff and make a connection.”

4.ONLY REAL PEOPLE NEED APPLY. They hire people they simply like. “Are you genuinely a nice person, empathetic, not driven by your own ego? Our manager is an amazing woman and she has the ability to instantly connect with people when they come into the space,” Danielle says. “And when she’s looking to hire, people get screened out if there’s not that potential for the two of them to connect. The way we sell is we connect with our customers. It makes it a little bit difficult to find people. They need to be a real person and be able to express that right away.”

5.LISTEN TO THIS. The key to sales at Pyrrha is listening with empathy. “We genuinely care about each and every person who walks through our door — we love hearing their stories and learning about their lives,” Danielle says. “It’s this honest connection that keeps them coming back to us time and time again, and why they share the experience with their friends. The talismans they select always have a personal and private meaning, but by listening, we do our part to help them to find exactly what they’re looking for.”

TRY THIS: CREATE RELATIONSHIPS THAT WORK

The Pyrrha team reached out to area hotel concierges, inviting them to visit the store and select a talisman for themselves. The initiative created many great relationships and referrals.

 

ONLINE EXTRA: Here's what the judges said:

Their website and branding is powerful and cohesive. I like the way they connect a raw aspect of jewelry design and feel using their jewelry stands. The interior white space does a good job of making the space seem larger than it is. — Nick Boulle, de Boulle Diamond and Jewelry

The vibe of the store carries through to the jewelry, and the displays - mannequin chests and vintage books work perfectly with the stamped seals and their meanings...the store feels like a natural extension of the charms - its what I would imagine it looking like based on the jewelry. — Malak Atut, ZAIKEN Jewelry

Pyrrha has a modern loft inspired showroom with an inspiring exterior entrance that entices clientele to shop. The showroom is open feeling and easy to view the jewelry showcased on displays. — Michelle Bailey, Interior Designer

Capitalizing on the trend of bringing symbolic personal messaging into jewelry, Pyrrha is all about drawing people into their world and then helping the customer make that world their own. The advertising is very seductive and simple driving the overall branding message. The exterior of the store continues the seduction promising a rich experience. Yet once in the store, the environment is very simple, almost minimalist. While not consistent with the rest of the marketing it does serve to make the jewelry the center of attention and the layout promotes exploration and interaction with the staff. — Dan Kisch, Executive Director, INSTORE


This article originally appeared in the May 2018 edition of INSTORE.      


 
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