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Brand Portfolio: Mahlia Collection Tucson, AZ

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Brand Portfolio: Mahlia Collection Tucson, AZ
By Harriet Howard Heithaus


Published in the September 2012 issue.


Her own best model: Konstantina Mahlia

You have to meet your customer on his or her terms — and perhaps on his or her turf. That lesson has kept Konstantina Mahlia of Tucson, AZ, in the retail and wholesale business for the past four years, with or without a brick-and-mortar store.

Mahlia, who designs her own jewelry lines, says her eureka moment came when she realized her marketing should not target gift recipients.

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“My jewelry is a different animal than the engagement rings and wedding jewelry so many stores specialize in,” Mahlia says of her insignia-emblazoned, larger pieces. “The well-dressed woman wears beautiful jewelry and she buys it herself. The majority of my customers are the top 1 percentile, ultra-affluents between the ages of 40 and 70. They do not ask permission to buy; they buy it for themselves, by themselves, because they like it.”

Mahlia says she elected not to keep her showroom this year after three straight years of recession in Tucson.

Because she’s in a troika of fine-design lines — jewelry, clothing and furnishings — she’s looking for a city that’s right for a fixed gallery. In the meantime, she has taken her market, as she says, to “a global platform.” Even when her retail store was operating, the majority of her retail sales came from private collectors and customers.

Among her tools: promoting her pieces for magazine fashion shoots, from local publications to national Hers is the kind of thinking that that has won her two awards in Marcom, the international marketing and communications awards competition. Even stores that market to traditional purchasers in one location can learn from Mahlia how to market their more assertive collections.

BRAND COMPONENTS

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LOGO-WARE

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You can eat Mahlia chocolates (made of Belgian milk chocolate) while you drink Mahlia Collection bottled water from Washington state and sit on a Mahlia Collection chair while wearing Mahlia Collection jewelry. (That’s called seamless branding by the way.)

INVITATION

Just as jewelry stores have moved into art and antique shows on the East Coast, Mahlia has found satisfying relationships with fashion shows, including one at Vendome in Paris, where the mix over several years has changed from primarily jewelry to ready-to-wear and jewelry.

SMALL WORLD

When A Small World, the invitation-only social network, held a gathering at Cite restaurant in Chicago, Mahlia was the guest, with 10 percent of the proceeds going to the Tibet Fund, a group that supports that country’s indigenous culture.

“It’s definitely symbiotic. The restaurant got some 60 people in the door who would not have been there otherwise,” she says. She came away with high visibility in local media, and offers for personal interviews with New York fashion editors. But don’t expect sales at such an event. For Mahlia, reaping a directory of new mailing list names was part of the benefit. The Mahlia Collection emphasize its designer’s Greek heritage, and puts either its own insignia or an ancient Greek frieze on its larger jewelry, such as in this emblazoned gold bracelet with intaglio, tourmaline and pearl details, pictured on this invitation. Details of this piece also carry the Greek cross.

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CO-HOST

Market-specific social events that some of her current customers are willing to host have taken her around the country. When the jewelry party is provided by someone else, Mahlia Collections insists on seeing invitations before they go out. The result: No misspellings, no misrepresentations and, often, a good suggestion for a small fillip, such as a jot of script in the center, to make the piece more artistic.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Since she first heard of Facebook and other social media sites, Mahlia has embraced the opportunity to connect with people from all walks of life, interfacing not just about jewelry, but about world politics, social issues and art. “In 2009 I had 500 friends; then I dug in aggressively and now have four pages of friends (6,187 at last count) and at least a dozen friend requests a day along with 100 pokes.”

SELF-PURCHASERS

When Mahlia noticed that her customers weren’t necessarily gift buyers, but independent women buying for themselves, she began marketing to that group with her bolder pieces, such as in this ad. Mahlia Collection customers recognize her advertisements because Konstantina Mahlia is her own model. She wouldn’t leave home without wearing something from her own collection as well, because her attention-getting pieces always invite questions.

CLASSICAL INSPIRATION

The Mahlia Collection logo comes from Greece, from the ancient city state of Mycenae in the center of the Peloponnesus, where Mahlia’s mother was born. The two lions with one head standing on the anvil represent: unity, loyalty, strength, valor, courage, independence and protection. The lion is fearless while the anvil is indestructible to the passage of time and circumstance.

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