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Bling-Scene Magazine: A Luxury Title That Opens Up The Enigmatic World Of Fine Jewelry By Offering A Venue For Collaboration Using The Most Tactile Platform Of All: Print – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Neil Shah, Publisher, Bling-Scene Magazine

October 11, 2016

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-8-48-38-am“We may launch a digital version at some point, but jewelry is very tactile. Orlando,our designer, is a very visual and tactile guy. The experience is different. In fact, there are many blogs and that kind of thing out there for the jewelry industry. There’s a lot of social media influence, but what was missing was that touch and feel. And if you notice the magazine, we went really went all out to focus on that touch and feel. The paper weight is heavier; the covers are heavier than whatever other luxury magazines we’re comparing it to that are out there; if you’re looking at a Robb Report or a Veranda, or any of these luxury lifestyle magazines. We’ve gone probably beyond that, in terms of the weight and the feel of it.” Neil Shah (On why they chose print as the best platform for Bling-Scene)

In the world of luxury lifestyles, nothing is more posh than fine jewelry. We’ve all romanced the stone at least once in our lives. But what you won’t find filling the newsstands are magazines on the upscale topic. That niche has been very lacking, that is, up until now.

Bling-Scene magazine is the latest luxury venture from a family who knows their way around a carat or two, or more, if I’m to be precise. After four decades in the diamond and jewelry industry, the Shah Luxury Group has now turned its attention to the world of magazines. And the beautifully-done, oversized, print title, Bling-Scene is the result. The magazine is the culmination of hard work and determination of all of the Shahs, father, Natwar Shah, his two sons, Neil and Salil Shah, and their creative partner and designer, Orlando Altamar.

I spoke with Neil recently and we talked about the vision the group had for Bling-Scene; the main one involving opening up the very reserved and secretive world of the jewelry industry and allowing it to connect and engage with the consumer. Bling-Scene’s focus will be one of collaboration and marketing, with the intent of partnering with different lifestyle brands and intertwining the worlds of fine jewelry, with, say, fashion, art, wine and any other luxury item. Hotels, resorts, the ideas are endless. Just ask Neil, who knows how intense he and his family and creative partner, Orlando, can be when it comes to ideas.

I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a young man who has diamonds in his blood and when it comes to exciting new ways to further he and his family’s brand, a flood of ideas in his brain, Neil Shah, publisher, Bling-Scene magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

neil-shah

On the idea behind Bling-Scene and why they chose print in this digital age: My family and I run a jewelry company; my father, brother and myself, and we also have a partner, a gentleman by the name of Orlando Altamar. And he’s sort of the creative direction in the company. It was originally Orlando’s idea, which he’s had for several years. He had noticed basically that in the jewelry industry there was no print magazine. There’s a luxury lifestyle print magazine for car-lovers, cigar-lovers; any kind of interest or passion that people might have, but in the jewelry industry it’s kind of a missing niche. And print is a great platform for us as a jewelry company, manufacturer and a designer brand, to showcase ourselves as well. But we didn’t quite act on it at first. I was jogging one day and listening to iTunes and started listening to the iTunes Music Festival. I began wondering what this iTunes Music Festival was all about, and for some reason it hit me like an epiphany. It’s not just a phone, and it’s not just iTunes, and it’s not just a way to download music; it’s a lifestyle. It’s a whole experience.

On why he thought that for a luxury magazine print would be the best medium: We may launch a digital version at some point, but jewelry is very tactile. Orlando, as our designer, is a very visual and tactile guy. The experience is different. In fact, there are many blogs and that kind of thing out there for the jewelry industry. There’s a lot of social media influence, but what was missing was that touch and feel. And if you notice the magazine, we went really went all out to focus on that touch and feel. The paper weight is heavier; the covers are heavier than whatever other luxury magazines we’re comparing it to that are out there; if you’re looking at a Robb Report or a Veranda, or any of these luxury lifestyle magazines.

On how he took that idea and actually turned it into a printed magazine: It wasn’t so much of a moment as a long process, particularly because no one in the company had any background or knowledge of the magazine industry. We had looked at companies outsourcing some of the publications and the production of the magazine, so we tried that and it didn’t really match what we had envisioned. What we ended up with was more like a catalog, which was not what we were going for. We went through a number of iterations and it one thing after another began to fall into place. We started reaching out to anybody that we could talk to: our friends in the industry and outside the industry, anybody who was a writer so that we could start putting together some of the articles first. Each step we would reach out to people and the nice thing was, people were very, not just willing, but excited to help us on this.

On the biggest stumbling block they faced and how they overcame it: Up to now it was more a series of small stumbling blocks, nothing huge in and of itself, but again, not knowing anything about magazines, every little thing was difficult. When we were dealing with deadlines, the pressure was enormous. We were up late nights designing and this and that, so the whole process was pretty intense. I’ll give you an example. Very close to the end, when we were just hitting up against our deadline and we realized that we needed photo credits, so suddenly there was this nightmare, disaster situation where we had no idea how to put together photo credits.

On the plan for future issues: Probably Q2 of next year, we’d like to do the next issue at this point. We will be reaching out to advertisers and reaching out again to some of those people who wanted to get involved and other people in the jewelry world, and hopefully getting this to critical mass. One of the ideas behind this is to partner with retailers for distribution. We really want to ramp up the distribution pretty quickly through those partnerships. That’s all part of the plan in the next several months.

On how he plans to use Bling-Scene as a vessel to open up the jewelry industry and create a relationship between the audience and the fine jewelry market: Some of the things that we want to do are write feature stories about various vendors or manufacturers and that type of thing. And we want to also feature retailers, but obviously the retailers are more in the public eye, vendors are not. And the manufacturers and the brands don’t have as much exposure. So, bringing the audience into that world, educating them about how the jewelry environment works; there are a lot of issues in the industry right now, with blood diamonds and lab-grown diamonds, things like that. We want to educate them and also get them excited about jewelry.

On why he thinks fine jewelry magazines have been so few and far between in publishing: The only thing I can say on that is, again, the nature of the industry is fairly reserved and conservative, along with the lack of marketing. De Beers did the marketing job for the industry for decades and it was a service, but in a sense it left a vacuum in the industry where no one really had to think about it. So, when they pulled out, it’s a vacuum that hasn’t gotten filled yet.

On whether he’s more of a print lover now than a stone lover: Yes, we’re actually in love with and very excited by this project, almost more so than with what we’ve been doing in the jewelry world. From the day we started this and began producing content, I realized that it just amplifies everything that we love about jewelry and about everything we’re doing on the jewelry side. It makes that even more special, to be reaching out to people and engaging with our customers.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly at his home one evening: Either playing with my son or reading various kinds of news, foreign policy and technology type news. Those are two of my hobbies. But you would probably find me playing with my five-year-old son.

On what keeps him up at night: Our factories and back office are in India where we do our manufacturing, so certainly talking to them and trying to stay in touch with the other side of the world is one thing, and the other would be ideas like Bling-Scene and other marketing ideas that we as a group, my family and Orlando and others in the company; we get very excited. We start geeking out on very small ideas that probably most people wouldn’t be very excited about, but we can talk about them for hours or lay awake thinking about them for hours.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Neil Shah, publisher, Bling-Scene Magazine.

Samir Husni: Would you give me a little background on the idea behind Bling-Scene and why you decided to launch a print magazine in this day and age?

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-8-48-38-amNeil Shah: My family and I run a jewelry company; my father, brother and myself, and we also have a partner, a gentleman by the name of Orlando Altamar. And he’s sort of the creative direction in the company.

It was originally Orlando’s idea, which he’s had for several years. He had noticed basically that in the jewelry industry there was no print magazine. There’s a luxury lifestyle print magazine for car-lovers, cigar-lovers; any kind of interest or passion that people might have, but in the jewelry industry it’s kind of a missing niche. So, he’d had this idea for several years and when he joined our company, he brought it to us and I thought it was a great idea and a great concept. And print is a great platform for us as a jewelry company, manufacturer and a designer brand, to showcase ourselves as well.

But we didn’t quite act on it at first. I was jogging one day and listening to iTunes and started listening to the iTunes Music Festival. I began wondering what this iTunes Music Festival was all about, and for some reason it hit me like an epiphany. It’s not just a phone, and it’s not just iTunes, and it’s not just a way to download music; it’s a lifestyle. It’s a whole experience.

And that’s when it hit me what Bling-Scene is; it’s a way of indulging; a way for jewelry lovers to indulge in this. And it’s a way for the industry to collaborate and create content surrounding jewelry and create a lifestyle and to immerse people in that lifestyle.

Traditionally, the jewelry industry is a fairly reserved, somewhat protective or secretive industry, and in this day and time it’s time for people to come together and collaborate and this is what we envisioned. When we started talking about it with people, we got a somewhat powerful reaction and everybody wanted to get involved and that’s what really hit home with us. It’s an incredible way for people to collaborate.

Samir Husni: And why did you think for such a luxury magazine that print would be the best medium in this digital age?

Neil Shah: We may launch a digital version at some point, but jewelry is very tactile. Orlando, as our designer, is a very visual and tactile guy. The experience is different. In fact, there are many blogs and that kind of thing out there for the jewelry industry. There’s a lot of social media influence, but what was missing was that touch and feel. And if you notice the magazine, we went really went all out to focus on that touch and feel. The paper weight is heavier; the covers are heavier than whatever other luxury magazines we’re comparing it to that are out there; if you’re looking at a Robb Report or a Veranda, or any of these luxury lifestyle magazines. We’ve gone probably beyond that, in terms of the weight and the feel of it.

Samir Husni: After you had that a-ha moment when you were jogging and listening to iTunes, how did that epiphany manifest itself into an actual, physical, printed magazine?

Neil Shah: That wasn’t so much of a moment as a long process, particularly because no one in the company had any background or knowledge of the magazine industry. We had looked at companies outsourcing some of the publications and the production of the magazine, so we tried that and it didn’t really match what we had envisioned. What we ended up with was more like a catalog, which was not what we were going for.

So, we went through a number of iterations and it one thing after another began to fall into place. We started reaching out to anybody that we could talk to: our friends in the industry and outside the industry, anybody who was a writer so that we could start putting together some of the articles first. Each step we would reach out to people and the nice thing was, people were very, not just willing, but excited to help us on this. Everyone was very eager to get involved because they loved the idea, and all the more so with every step when it started coming together. The articles were amazing and layout of the pages looked beautiful. So, at every step people became more excited about it and more interested in getting involved.

We got a number of our friends involved in helping us with articles. Orlando put together a lot of the advertisements and the graphics. It was a long process, but we got through it.

Samir Husni: What was the biggest stumbling block during that process and how did you overcome it?

Neil Shah: Up to now it was more a series of small stumbling blocks, nothing huge in and of itself, but again, not knowing anything about magazines, every little thing was difficult. When we were dealing with deadlines, the pressure was enormous. We were up late nights designing and this and that, so the whole process was pretty intense.

I’ll give you an example. Very close to the end, when we were just hitting up against our deadline and we realized that we needed photo credits, so suddenly there was this nightmare, disaster situation where we had no idea how to put together photo credits. And then we looked at some other magazines and talked to a couple of people and it became clear, and it’s really not a big deal, but initially when we realized that we were trying to go to print and we had no photo credits it was almost a nightmare. Just things like that, a series of little stumbling blocks that meant a lot of work and a lot of late nights.

But probably the biggest challenge ahead of us is getting this to a point where it can sustain itself and launching it commercially, then getting it to a critical mass, in terms of defining the revenue model; that will probably be the biggest challenge that’s still ahead of us.

Samir Husni: Now that the first issue is out, what’s the plan for the future and next issues?

Neil Shah: Probably Q2 of next year, we’d like to do the next issue at this point. We will be reaching out to advertisers and reaching out again to some of those people who wanted to get involved and other people in the jewelry world, and hopefully getting this to critical mass.

One of the ideas behind this is to partner with retailers for distribution. We really want to ramp up the distribution pretty quickly through those partnerships. That’s all part of the plan in the next several months.

Samir Husni: One of the things that you mentioned earlier is that this has always been a really closed and secretive type of industry. How do you plan to use this magazine as a vessel to open up the industry and create this relationship between the audience, whether it’s the retailer or the customer, and the jewelry market?

Neil Shah: That’s a great question. Some of the things that we want to do are write feature stories about various vendors or manufacturers and that type of thing. And we want to also feature retailers, but obviously the retailers are more in the public eye, vendors are not. And the manufacturers and the brands don’t have as much exposure. So, bringing the audience into that world, educating them about how the jewelry environment works; there are a lot of issues in the industry right now, with blood diamonds and lab-grown diamonds, things like that. We want to educate them and also get them excited about jewelry.

In terms of marketing in the jewelry industry, traditionally it has been dominated by De Beers, but several years ago De Beers kind of stepped away from that and the industry hasn’t really found its footing, in terms of how to engage with the millennial audience. The hot topic in the industry publications right now; everyday it’s another story about how do we as an industry engage with millennials and this is one of our answers to that question; to put out a magazine like this and not just for jewelry, but open it up to lifestyle partner with other industries as well. We’d love to partner with a vineyard in something like this. In the magazine there are articles about resorts, hotels and vineyards; fashion and other things like that. We want to see collaboration, not just within the industry, but the industry reaching out to collaborate with other lifestyle brands and work together.

Samir Husni: Why do you think such a luxurious topic as in fine jewelry and romancing the stone hasn’t produced any publications devoted to that niche, while if you go to the newsstand you can find several magazines on watches? Why the lack in magazines about actual fine jewelry?

Neil Shah: The only thing I can say on that is, again, the nature of the industry is fairly reserved and conservative, along with the lack of marketing. De Beers did the marketing job for the industry for decades and it was a service, but in a sense it left a vacuum in the industry where no one really had to think about it. So, when they pulled out, it’s a vacuum that hasn’t gotten filled yet. That ability for us as an industry to relate to the consumer and reach out to them isn’t something that I think we’re just starting to do now.

Samir Husni: Are you now more of a print lover than a stone lover?

Neil Shah: (Laughs) Yes, we’re actually in love with and very excited by this project, almost more so than with what we’ve been doing in the jewelry world. From the day we started this and began producing content, I realized that it just amplifies everything that we love about jewelry and about everything we’re doing on the jewelry side. It makes that even more special, to be reaching out to people and engaging with our customers.

And it brings home the purpose of the jewelry in the first place, celebrating and commemorating special events in people’s lives. This is a way for us to carry on that connection.

Samir Husni: If I showed up at your home one evening unexpectedly, what would I find you doing, reading a magazine; reading your iPad; watching television; polishing a big rock; or something else?

Neil Shah: (Laughs) Either playing with my son or reading various kinds of news, foreign policy and technology type news. Those are two of my hobbies. But you would probably find me playing with my five-year-old son.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Neil Shah: Our factories and back office are in India where we do our manufacturing, so certainly talking to them and trying to stay in touch with the other side of the world is one thing, and the other would be ideas like Bling-Scene and other marketing ideas that we as a group, my family and Orlando and others in the company; we get very excited. We start geeking out on very small ideas that probably most people wouldn’t be very excited about, but we can talk about them for hours or lay awake thinking about them for hours. And we also get on the phone with each other at 11:00 p.m. and don’t hang up until 2:00 a.m. (Laughs) And our wives are asking us what we’re doing on the phone at 2 in the morning. Hang up the phone and go to sleep. But we just get carried away with those ideas.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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One comment

  1. […] from a family who knows their way around a carat or two, or more, if I’m to be precise,” Husni writes on his site. “After four decades in the diamond and jewelry industry, the Shah Luxury Group has now turned […]



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