If AUrate cofounder Sophie Kahn had it her way, you'd already be shopping one of her storefronts in your city. That, she believes, is the key to brand awareness, and giving consumers everywhere access to the smaller, NYC-based fine jewelry label might just be their most pressing item of business. Still, the fact that AUrate has thus far existed only online, in pop-ups, and at their NYC showroom doesn't seem to be a hindrance to its growing popularity. According to Sophie, who chatted with us via phone, AUrate is up a whopping 400 percent year over year. That's a testament that something is clearly working, and we have some ideas.
Born from two Princeton business school grads with impeccable taste in accessories and the know-how to reinvent the fine jewelry market, AUrate may just be one of the smartest accessory collections out there. When Sophie teamed up with her former classmate, Bouchra Ezzahraoui, they agreed on one key thing: there wasn't a place to buy beautiful, lasting jewelry at an affordable price point.
"We saw a problem," Sophie explained. "I have a background in fashion [I was at Marc Jacobs]; Bouchra was in finance, and we met in school. We were having brunch in NY, and we were talking about doing something for ourselves. We'd love to make our own mark. We were talking about different industries and what we would do, and at the time I was wearing a ring. I won't mention what brand, but it was expensive and it was costume. My entire finger was green. Bouchra is from Morocco, and she said the gold in Morocco isn't that expensive — I don't know why it's so overpriced here. And I started thinking that it's crazy that when we want to buy something nice for ourselves, you either have to go to the big brand names, the Cartier, the Bulgaris of the world, or David Yurman, which is often a little bit more traditional in terms of its look and feel."
From there, the two zeroed in on a timeless, minimalist aesthetic and set out to sell it differently. While most jewelers sell wholesale, often incurring three to 10 times the cost, Bouchra and Sophie saw the value in the direct-to-consumer models that retailers like Everlane recently popularized, and said "let's do it for jewelry," a brilliant impulse rooted in practicality. "It's not like all my life I wanted to make jewelry; it really came from an issue we saw [and] something we wanted for ourselves," Sophie admitted. "We almost started just making it for us, and then it got traction. I was still at Marc Jacobs and working on [the jewelry on] the side and then we started realizing that people really liked it. We sold out of our first collection really quickly. Press started coming at us. We had no idea if that would work or not, [but] you don't know until you try. We started realizing we really had something there. So we started doing more and more."
Sophie's enthusiasm, even over the phone, is obvious; but it's her thoughtfulness that resonates. The product isn't successful just because it's pretty. The founders put an emphasis on materials, quality, and — one step further — a conscious component that gives customers the chance to give back. Instituting the same buy-one-give-one model used by brands Sophie and Bouchra admire, like Warby Parker and Toms, AUrate empowers shoppers to give back by donating books to underprivileged children with every purchase.
That mindfulness is at the core of what Sophie and Bouchra do, and the timing couldn't be better in an industry currently plagued by designer burnout and fast fashion. At AUrate, Sophie and Bouchra are committed to designing something that lasts and giving consumers who identify not just with their aesthetic, but also with their thoughtful outlook, a brand they can feel proud to shop. Forget pop-up shops; that's how you build brand loyalty.
Inside, I had the opportunity to chat even more with Sophie, picking her brain about the values that make AUrate so special and what's next for the brand. Read on to get to know the jewelry line you're about to see everywhere and one half of the team making it happen.