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May 10, 2024

An Exploration in Retail: Sethi

e remain perpetually in awe of the creativity, ingenuity and technical acumen of our designers and brands. Not only are they infinitely talented at their craft, but they also possess the analytical skills necessary to run a successful business. For a handful of our designers and brands, this left/right brain dexterity extends to managing their wholesale business, while also running multi-brand retail spaces. We caught up with three of these brands, Sethi Couture in Los Altos, California (who named their shop “Sethi”), Shihara in Tokyo, Japan and Single Stone in San Marino, California to find out about the motivation behind opening a retail space and how the experience has affected their creative process.

While the responses among these business owners varied, we discovered that there are many commonalities in the lessons they've learned and in their holistic approach to brand representation.

Image courtesy of Sethi Couture

While the responses among these business owners varied, we discovered that there are many commonalities in the lessons they’ve learned and in their holistic approach to brand representation. While admittedly challenging, they all share the many ways in which having a retail space has enhanced their businesses.

Image courtesy of Sethi Couture


The first in this three-part series will focus on Sethi Couture. Run by sisters Pratima and Prerna Sethi, since its launch in 2009, Sethi Couture has established a reputation for beautifully refined jewelry that perfectly blends classic with contemporary. Their meticulous approach to running their business is evident in the exquisite detail of their designs, the cohesiveness of their branding and marketing and their thoughtful consideration of how their work is displayed. It was their shared desire to extend their ethos into a more fully immersive experience that prompted to the duo, in 2016, to open their eponymous jewelry gallery, Sethi. Carrying their own jewelry, as well as the work of designers whose work they admire and respect, the environment they’ve created and the assortment of designs they represent illustrate their intimate knowledge of their clients, how they like to shop and how they like to style their jewelry.

Image courtesy of Sethi Couture

COUTURE: Can you tell us a little more about the store?

Sethi: We are nestled in the charming town of Los Altos, in the heart of the Bay Area and we designed the space to offer an inviting and intimate ambiance. From the moment you step through our doors, you’ll be enveloped in a warm and welcoming atmosphere reminiscent of your own living room. Our thoughtfully curated space is designed to provide an approachable and relaxed experience, allowing you to browse and explore our exquisite jewelry collections in complete comfort. Whether you’re seeking the perfect piece to commemorate a special occasion or simply indulging in a little self-care, Sethi’s residential-inspired setting ensures a personalized and unhurried shopping journey.  

Image courtesy of Sethi Couture

COUTURE: What was the impetus for opening a retail store? 

Sethi: For years, we focused solely on wholesale operations. However, we yearned to craft an immersive environment where customers could truly experience the essence of our collection. We sought to forge personal connections with our clientele, providing a physical space that would allow our pieces to inhabit a setting that authentically conveyed our brand’s narrative. 

COUTURE: You carry brands other than your own; what was the motivation for expanding beyond your own DNA within your store? 

Sethi: Our collection is designed to harmonize beautifully with many other designer lines. As we observed how our clients styled their jewelry, we noticed an eclectic blend of pieces from various designers. The designers we carry share a common philosophy of elevating everyday looks with exquisite jewelry. Inspired by this, we envisioned empowering our clients to curate their jewelry wardrobes by offering a collaborative gallery showcasing multiple talented artists. While our stacking rings have made us renowned, we understand that other designers excel in complementary areas. By bringing these lines together, we enable our clients to craft stylish ensembles that enhance their personal aesthetic. 

Alex Sepkus jewelry, Image courtesy of Sethi Couture

COUTURE: How do you select brands for your store? 

Sethi: Our goal is for each designer collection to possess a distinct identity that captivates, while upholding a cohesive brand ethos rooted in timeless sophistication. Moreover, we take immense pride in cultivating meaningful partnerships with the exceptional designers whose creations grace our gallery, fostering enduring bonds built on mutual admiration and respect. 

COUTURE: Do you give designers any kind of special considerations that don’t normally exist within the vendor/merchant paradigm? 

Sethi: Absolutely, we place a special emphasis on representing our designers’ collections with the utmost care and consideration. Just as we would want our own creations showcased in an elegant, knowledgeable manner at a high-end gallery or jewelry boutique, we ensure our team is thoroughly versed in the inspiration, craftsmanship, and narrative behind each designer’s line. Impeccable merchandising is paramount – we curate eye-catching displays that allow the artistry and vision of the designs to truly shine. Our goal is to create an environment where customers can appreciate the passion and expertise poured into every piece. 

Moritz Glik jewelry, image courtesy of Sethi Couture

COUTURE: Does having a retail store influence your creative process in any way? If so, how? 

Sethi: Operating a retail storefront has undoubtedly shaped our creative approach. By interacting directly with customers on a daily basis, we gain an understanding of their preferences, pain points, and the intricate details that truly resonate with them. This firsthand exposure allows us to design with a heightened sense of intentionality, meticulously crafting products that cater to the specific needs and desires of our clientele. We pay closer attention to the nuances that often go unnoticed, recognizing that these seemingly minor elements can profoundly impact the overall user experience. Consequently, our creative process is enriched by a deeper understanding of what genuinely captivates our audience, enabling us to deliver designs that not only meet but exceed their expectations. 

COUTURE: What advantages do you feel having a retail store gives you in comparison to brands that do wholesale exclusively?  

Sethi: Our firsthand experience running retail stores gives us invaluable insights into the nuances and challenges retailers face. This allows us to be better partners supporting our retailers’ needs. Operating our own stores provides direct feedback and data about our product collection’s performance. We can then relay these insights back to our retail partners to help drive stronger sales, more effective marketing strategies, and better inventory management. 

Image courtesy of Sethi Couture

COUTURE: What was the biggest lesson you learned when you opened your store? You know, the thing you didn’t know you didn’t know!  

Sethi: The biggest eye-opener when we opened our store was how crucial it is to make clients feel truly seen and heard. We quickly realized the importance of taking the time to genuinely connect with each client – learning about their lives, listening to their stories, and ensuring our gallery feels like a warm, welcoming space they can relax in. Building those personal bonds has allowed us to become more than just their jeweler – we get to be a part of celebrating their milestone moments and life journeys through the pieces we create together. It’s been incredibly fulfilling to forge those deeper client relationships. 

Image courtesy of Sethi Couture

COUTURE: What is the most rewarding part of having a retail space? 

Sethi Having a space to forge lasting connections with clients and sharing in their joyous celebrations and life milestones is one of the most rewarding aspects of our work. We really love coming in everyday to our space that feels like home. We cherish those moments when clients visit simply to introduce friends, proudly showcase how they’ve styled a piece from our collection, or extend a warm greeting. These interactions foster a sense of community and remind us of the profound impact our creations have on people’s lives. 

COUTURE: What is the biggest challenge in running a retail space? 

Sethi: There are so many details that as an owner you want to be hands on with a consistent level of excellent customer service and personalized attention to every shopper, but you can’t be everywhere at once and it is so important to delegate. Building and nurturing a team of highly trained, engaged, and customer-centric employees becomes paramount in overcoming this hurdle. We are lucky to have an amazing team which has taken some time to build but is so essential.  

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