Designer-Retailer Partnerships to Envy and Emulate
Without Soraya Cayen, Victor Velyan might still be focused solely on making pieces for other designers—instead of for his own acclaimed fine jewelry collection.
Cayen, owner of Cayen Collection in Carmel, Calif., was the contemporary who persuaded Velyan to make the leap from manufacturer—he was crafting collections for a bevy of brands—to full-fledged designer. And after succeeding in talking him into it, she introduced his first-ever collection in her boutique in 2008. “I saw how intensely he participated with his clients, and I just kept bugging him to do it,” Cayen recalls.
The friends have worked together closely ever since, creating a tight partnership that’s been financially fruitful for both parties. “The relationship is more than important to me,” Velyan says. “It’s actually precious to me.”
Victor Velyan and Soraya Cayen
Velyan and Cayen’s personal friendship and professional partnership has been developing for three decades. But in the beginning it was Cayen selling to Velyan—not the other way around.
Cayen was a gem dealer in the 1980s, and Velyan was a client. “At the time, he had a manufacturing service in downtown Los Angeles,” recalls the veteran retailer, “and I used to see everything he had for other artists and see how they collaborated. I was always really
Velyan’s first-ever collection, which debuted at Cayen Collection, flew out the door in a matter of hours, which he says gave him the confidence to flesh out his first few designs into a full-fledged collection.
“Soraya was really the first one to believe in the collection,” he says. “When I first introduced a certain patina, I myself wasn’t really sure about it. But she said, ‘I’ll buy whatever you have right now.’ ”
As time went on, the pair started “working on ways to focus on the market at the store,” Cayen says. This included “reining his vision in so that it makes sense for the clients,” she explains. “He’s incredibly creative and a real dreamer, and I bring him back to the business world.”
Over time the two began collaborating on special pieces for Cayen’s clientele, which includes major collectors of Velyan’s pieces. “We work very closely developing product,” Cayen says. “I analyze the market and give him my feedback…so he can come back to me with a product that’s going to be perfect for our clients.” The unfettered access to Velyan—now a boldface name in the industry—is a major perk for Cayen as a high-end retailer with a design-savvy clientele. And on the other side, her feedback has been invaluable to the growth of Velyan’s brand.
“Soraya’s opinionated and headstrong, and that’s why her store is so successful,” he says. “She takes full charge of the level of quality of the pieces we -create. And for a store owner, she’s extremely creative. And that’s not something I say loosely about retailers. She has a very good eye, and she understands jewelry and gemstones.”
The longtime partners are so collaborative, they even shop together—cruising the trade shows in Tucson, Ariz., and Hong Kong as a pair, scoping out stones and chatting about future designs.
Velyan says the relationship has taught him a lesson he insists many young designers need to learn: “Listen to what your retailers want. The new generation of designers—they think they’re so freaking fabulous. Guess what? The retailer today has way too many choices. There are more designers than the industry can handle and most of them are fabulous.”