Community is at the forefront of the business model for Lugano Diamonds & Jewelry Inc., thanks in large part to Chief Operating Officer Idit Ferder, who co-founded the company with lessons she learned from her time serving in the Israeli Army.
“My job was to help station soldiers in their units, and I got to meet people from all different kinds of backgrounds,” Ferder told the Business Journal, adding her role also included deciding whether prospective soldiers were a good fit for the army.
“It taught me responsibility, and how amazing the fabric of our society is, but most importantly, it taught me that it’s not all about you.”
Working with people is still her specialty, and passion, as operations head of the Newport Beach-based designer, manufacturer and retailer of high-end jewelry that’s in significant growth mode.
Ferder prefers to take a behind-the-scenes role in the business—with her husband and Chief Executive Moti Ferder in a more public-facing role—but her work can be seen in all aspects of the business, from furniture and interior design touches across the company’s five retail locations, to overseeing inventory levels, to managing the company’s IT solutions.
Idit Ferder was one of the honorees at the Business Journal’s 28th annual Women in Business Awards held Oct. 20 at the Irvine Marriott.
Lugano’s origin story traces back to the army in another way: the two founders met during their service.
“Moti was an officer who arrived at my unit toward the last part of my final service term in 1989,” Ferder said. “We had shared values, and a shared outlook on life and the things we wanted to do.”
The two got married a few years after Ferder left the army in 1990, at which point she pursued degrees in history and English from Tel Aviv University before working for several firms as a mediator.
“Moti had a goal of changing the face of retail, and I knew I could make an impact through philanthropy,” she said.
Moti Ferder had prior experience in the industry with his family operating a rough diamond business in Belgium. The two launched Lugano in Israel in 2004 and moved to Orange County with their two children in 2005 to open their first location in Newport Beach.
From the start, Idit Ferder made moves to embed herself, and Lugano, in the local community, with heavy involvement with the Jewish Federation of Orange County; she later served on the organization’s Women’s Philanthropy Board.
Today, Lugano—which saw Compass Diversified Holdings (NYSE: CODI) take a majority stake in the business last year—supports more than 80 organizations focused on healthcare, education and the arts.
The Ferders were among many locals who supported the opening of the Orange County Museum of Art earlier this month; Idit Ferder sits on the board of trustees for the new facility, which will provide free admission to the public for the next decade after a multi-million-dollar endowment from the jeweler.
“The opening was a very special and exciting moment,” Idit Ferder said. “To see children and adults experiencing the exhibits and the representation of so many cultures and to have been involved is a very proud moment for me.”
Like it does with every new retail location, Lugano will make community and philanthropy a cornerstone at its new Fashion Island hub.
Lugano, whose rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets and brooches cost an average price of around $115,000 per item, inked an 11,500-square-foot lease over the summer at Fashion Island at a spot between Whole Foods and R+D Kitchen.
The company’s new location at the upscale Newport Center shopping center, previously used by Canaletto Ristorante Veneto, will include a new store open to the public and membership club concept: Privé.
Privé will have a food and beverage program, events and nonprofit partnerships “in a comfortable setting that feels like an extension of our client’s homes,” Moti Ferder previously told the Business Journal.
The Fashion Island salon is set to open in December; Privé will follow in early 2023.
The space will feature quarterly culinary events with Ment’or, a nonprofit founded by famed chefs Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud and Jerome Bocuse to help cultivate and support young talent in the culinary industry.
Idit Ferder will oversee the opening of two stores this year in addition to the Fashion Island outpost, in Houston and Washington, D.C.
Lugano isn’t just ramping up its retail footprint; the company recently signed a lease to bring its local office operations together across two floors at 620 Newport Center.
The company previously counted about 20,000 square feet of space at the Irvine Co. office campus, including its flagship retail location which will close as the new Fashion Island outpost opens; its headquarters now totals north of 40,000 square feet.
Though the company has seen many changes over the past nearly two decades, Ferder’s favorite part of her day is still the same passion she had in Israel.
“Interacting with people,” Ferder said. “Those relationships and doing something bigger than yourself, that’s what makes it all worthwhile.”