With the fashion industry making major strides when it comes to implementing ethical and sustainable strategies in the production of clothing and accessories, it is just as important when it comes to fine jewelry. Headed by Bouchra Ezzahraoui and Sophie Kahn, who noticed a gap in the market when they became frustrated by the lack of inspiring and accessible fine jewelry, they created AUrate.
Having met each other whilst studying, both Ezzahraoui and Kahn developed their fine jewelry label whilst working within corporate environments, and bought together their different cultural backgrounds to build a brand that spoke to every woman, on every level through high quality gold and diamonds with the initiative to make purchasing fine jewelry as simple as possible, and much less intimidating.
The fine jewelry brand is new to the Middle Eastern fashion radar, but is one that prides itself on its social and ethical practices, celebrating women within their workforce, marketing itself to women, and is “made by women for women”.
We wanted to find out everything there is to know about AUrate, from its origins, inspirations and philosophies to the label’s future, and caught up with co-founder Bouchra Ezzahraoui to discuss all things fine jewelry and how she managed to acquire $13million USD to fund the future of her business and how AUrate is about to change the way we purchase it…
Tell us a little about your journey. Coming from corporate career backgrounds, where did AUrate start for you?
I was born in a family of entrepreneurs and knew nothing but that life until I left home for school. Being exposed to what the actual reality of entrepreneurship made me want to get a corporate job after college, ironically, I wanted to learn business in a structured environment then build my own venture.
I joined the derivatives trading desk at Goldman Sachs out of college, worked on AUrate on the side and made the jump eventually in 2017. AUrate was born at a weekend brunch that turned into a big discussion on why modern fine jewelry was so inaccessible, intimidating and uninspiring. I always wanted to build something of my own (industry-agnostic in my thought process) and the process of going from 0 to 1 then N is what I enjoy me the most.
Was jewelry design something that was always in the pipeline for you?
Not at all. I was a mathematics major in college… It was rather the void in the market that made me embark in this journey of accessible fine jewelry.
Who is the woman that embodies AUrate? Did you have a target market in mind?
The main word to describe our woman is REAL. She is a stylish woman that cares about real things, loves traveling and is proud of her individuality.
When you were creating your brand, what did you think was missing within the fine jewelry market?
It was a void in the market that inspired us to start AUrate. We were out to brunch when we noticed a piece of jewelry turning my skin a different color. As 20 going to 30 something women, we wanted jewelry that checked all the boxes, made for US and incorporates our input. We want to make gold more democratic. The jewelry business is very traditional, pricing is very opaque and the exact details about the origin of the materials are very often omitted. Our brand essence is about being real to our customers, offering high-quality ethically sourced products and giving back to the community in a real way via our book for your look program.
What sets AUrate aside from other fine jewelry brands?
Everything AUrate stands for: We’re made by women for women and believe that our woman wants it all. Starting in the US and keeping international markets in mind, we wanted to check all the boxes from a perfect product to an ethical supply chain, a concrete giving back program and the most customer-centric strategy. We want our customers to feel empowered and beautiful inside and out.
Recently, AUrate acquired a rather large investment of $13m USD, how do you plan to use that investment to expand your business?
This new round of funding will be used to enhance profitability through growing all channels of the business and double down on what’s been working. We’re planning to grow our online business further and will also continue to conquer the offline channel via a store expansion strategy in the U.S. (doubling the store presence) establishing an unparalleled omni-channel experience in the space. International markets are part of the plan and we will have more exciting news to share later this year.
With one of your plans to expand involving investments in technology, how do you think it will enhance consumer experiences when purchasing fine jewelry from your brand?
This round will enable us to grow our online business further with a big focus on expanding our data science team. The goal is to create an even better experience for customers, via utilizing the data they’re providing via all our digital channels (social, website journeys, direct customer service data as well as our styling box we offer in the U.S.). We want to not only listen to them but also execute on it via new designs, supply chain optimization that will make the customer journey more superior. The technology will cement our spot at the front of the digital pack in the fine jewelry space.
AUrate is pretty new to the Middle Eastern market, what can you tell us about your collections?
Our designs are contemporary with an edge, include essentials and editions that can be worn at every occasion. Our Middle eastern customers expressed interest earlier this year in this esthetic similarly to what we’re seeing in the US market and have been gravitating towards the whole spectrum. We have pieces that are bold yet very simple and this is the reflection of what AUrate is about. I’m Moroccan and love adding special editions inspired by the region’s craftsmanship, Sophie is Dutch and her northern European background brings more minimalism to the table. Our designs are architectural and minimalist at the same time and every woman will find something she loves at AUrate.
With the fashion industry making huge efforts to focus on being more mindful, ethical and sustainable, how do you implement those factors within your own brand?
This is core to what we care about as a brand, a company but also as human beings at AUrate. We are made in New York under the highest ethical standards throughout the whole supply chain. We can control this and stand by it because we’re involved in the manufacturing process and ensure that we have every single certification of ethical sourcing for all our materials.
You are 2 trailblazing business women who inspire many, who are the women that inspire you?
All the women who raised me, my mother and both grandmothers. They all have a story that shaped me and made me the woman I am today. They didn’t have the opportunity to get advanced college degrees, leave the country nor the choice to work and be independent but they are and were the strongest women I know. They enjoyed watching my rebellious side and taught me compassion and to not take no for an answer.
My other inspiration… Oprah. Hands down. She’s the quintessential self-made, hard working woman who never took no for an answer.
What empowers and motivates you and how do you use your positions to empower other women?
I feel empowered when my team is happy and performing towards the same goal we’ve set at Aurate and when a customer understands what we’re trying to change in the fine jewelry space.
Aurate was founded to empower our women to choose, set the standard and participate in the conversation. Our pieces are designed by women for women and our team in 70% female which I’m very proud of.
What can we expect to see from AUrate in the Middle East in the near future?
I currently see an extremely fragmented market dominated by the legacy players and our job is to shake things up in this big boys club by introducing a new customer experience focused on empowering the customer & making the process of buying fine jewelry more accessible and inclusive.
We are doubling the size of our team after our latest funding round to keep up with the rapid growth of our online channels and have set up a seamless cross border shipping experience to international markets to start. First of all, you can order Aurate pieces online in a very easy way from anywhere in the region; we will also be announcing more exciting projects in the next 3 months, those include new partnerships.