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By Christine Persaud
Austere is aiming to shake up the AV accessories market, focusing as much on the design of its products – and the packaging – as it does the technology. This is due, in large part, to its founder Deena Ghazarian, her background in the consumer technology and fashion industries, and her desire to fill an untapped space in the market.
With a combined more than 25 years of experience in both consumer technology and fashion, Ghazarian, who is based in Los Angeles, says she has a lifelong passion for style. Through her career, she has worked with a number of top technology brands, including Monster Products, Beats by Dre, and AVAD. In 2016, she was named by Dealerscope magazine as one of the most powerful women in consumer technology. Prior to her career in consumer electronics, she held management roles at Macy’s. In addition to launching the Austere brand this past August, she serves as Managing Partner of business management consultancy firm TargetPath LLC and is a member of the Consumer Technology Association’s Board of Industry Leaders and its sub-committee on Diversity and Inclusion.
The Birth of the Austere Brand
A few years ago, Ghazarian was approached by several retailers at CES who all asked her to create a new accessories company to fill a gap in the market they felt existed.
“The choice [in the technology accessories market] is either ubiquitous products that easily break and underperform or overly extravagant, antiquated accessories,” says Ghazarian, who serves as both founder of Austere and CEO. “We’re equally passionate about performance and style and believe there’s a tremendous need in the accessories market for accessible products where these ideologies intersect. That’s why we’ve created Austere, from the packaging to the in-store displays to the products themselves, with intentional design and minimalistic style that deliver spectacular performance.”
If you review what has been happening in the hardware space, notes Ghazarian, we went from big, bulky TVs to these beautiful TVs that hang on the wall. “Today, they are paper thin, like the Samsung Frame that looks like art in your home. If you look at what the appliance industry has done, they have revolutionized the look and feel of the kitchen just based on the design of the product along with tech savviness. Nest revolutionized what happens with an air conditioning unit just because of the style, design, approach, and more modern look…Accessories is definitely one of those categories where most of it is plastic, most comes off the shelf in China with a name on it and a little bit of design. What if we really took that design work to the next level?”
This is what Austere is doing with its line-up, which is injected with some female flare, so to speak, that sets the items apart from the “aggressively masculine and dated accessories of the past,” says Ghazarian.
The gear includes everything from AV cables to conditioned power and cleaning solutions. Each item comes in beautiful black boxes reminiscent of what you might get with a high-end smartphone. Packaging is reusable and made from 100% recycled materials. Products are presented as though they are luxury items, regardless of whether it’s a set of banana plugs, HDMI cables, or a bottle of screen cleaner.
At the heart of the aesthetic is Austere’s aDesign philosophy, which Ghazarian says represents beautiful, minimalistic design. “Not only in the housing,” she explains, “but the touch of the cables. Does it feel substantial but rich and delicious in your hands? When you touch the packaging, there’s a beautiful experience of sliding the sleeve, opening the box, and having the product presented to you in a stunning way when you open it. All of those factors go into aDesign.”
The Canadian Approach
The home theatre accessories launched in the U.S. in August, and Austere will be launching with Visions in Canada around mid-November, just in time for the holiday season. Austere has been talking with other retailers as well, with plans to roll the products out elsewere later in 2020. The focus will be on regional retailers with an assisted sales floor, which Ghazarian sees as essential with an attachment product and a new brand where the story is just as critical as the physical item.
The target customer is the 35-55-year-old who wants something better, but will likely set it up himself, though Ghazarian isn’t ruling out the integrator market as well. Toronto-based The ReSource Group is handling all sales for the brand in Canada, with distribution handled by Rocketlite, also based in Toronto.
Kicking off the line-up are the III Series HDMI 2.0 cables that come in 1.5, 2.5, and 5-metre lengths for $70, $100, and $170, respectively, and feature HDMI 2.0b, 4K HDR, 15𝝻in pure hard-gold contacts, 24K gold-plated contact shields, and aDesign precision connector housing and WovenArmor cable.
The V Series HDMI 2.0 cables, available in the same lengths and $30 more each, feature HDMI 2.0b, 4K HDR, 30𝝻in hard-gold contacts, 24K gold-plated contact shield, aDesign precision connector housing, silver conductor, WovenArmor cable and LinkFit locking connector.
The V Series Optical Audio (two-metre, $60), employs 24K endurance gold-plated, aDesign precision connector LinkFit housing, precision-polished termination for digital audio accuracy, braided WovenArmor cable, and durability from over-molded strain relief and metal retention hardware.
For $100, there’s the two-metre V Series Audio Interconnect that offers 24K endurance gold-plated aDesign precision connector housing, LinkFit secure connection, over-molded strain relief and metal retention hardware soft-touch high-flex cable.
Also available is the V Series speaker cable and speaker cable adapters (14-gauge 100-foot for $200 and 12-gauge 100-foot for $250) that boasts fine-stranded 100% pure OFC, soft-touch high-flex cable, and a durable jacket for smooth wire routing. Four banana adapters are included, and additional adapters are sold separately for $55 ea.
The five-metre V Series subwoofer cable ($100) features 24K endurance gold-plated aDesign precision connector housing, LinkFit secure connection, over-molded strain relief and metal retention hardware, and SoftTouch high-flex cable. And the Banana Adapters (four adapters, $55) include a Pure Gold shield to prevent copper wire oxidation, are high-performance adapters with SecureLatch and twist-by-hand design.
Austere also offers a line of power and protection products for home theatre gear, including the V Series Power and Protect six- and eight-outlet models ($170, $200) dedicated 4K joules surge, flameless MOV protection, with 12A circuit breaker + LED indicators for power, ground and protected, expansive SmartFit, PureFiltration, aDesign all-aluminum enclosure, Omniport USB, and WovenArmor power cable.
There’s also the VII Series Power and Protect six- and eight-outlet models ($250, $280) with dedicated 4K joules surge, flameless MOV protection, 12A circuit breaker + LED indicators for power, ground and protected expansive SmartFit, isolated PureFiltration, aDesign all-aluminum enclosure, Omniport USB w/45W USBC PD, and WovenArmor power cable.
Packaged in a similarly luxurious box to the rest of the line-up, the III Series Clean and Protect screen cleaner comes in a 200mL spray bottle for $25. It consists of a mild cleaning solution that is anti-bacterial, static-free, scent-free, chemical free, and allergen-free. It comes out via an easy-trigger pump sprayer with an aDesign applicator that sprays the unscented fine-mist evenly and is designed to prevent screen streaks and fingerprints. It comes with a double-sided cleaning and polishing cloth for cleaning a variety of electronic device screens, including TVs, laptops, smartphones, and tablets.
All products come with a lifetime guarantee.
Thus far, sales in the U.S., where the brand has been available for about three months, has met or exceeded expectations, says Ghazarian.
While the current line-up focuses on home theatre, Ghazarian’s goal is to have Austere and aDesign make its way to every room of the home. “We’ll create an assortment that will work in the bedroom, in the home office, and in the kitchen on top of building out our home theatre line-up,” she says.
And Canada will be a big part of Austere’s strategy and market push. Many companies consider Canada to be a small piece of their pie, representing just 10% or so of their business. But Ghazarian disagrees, noting that most of the business she’s done in Canada in her past roles has been closer to 15-20%. “If you really understand the Canadian market and how to talk to the consumer there, you can be more meaningful than most people give Canada credit for.”
Austere is poised to make waves in the accessories space as it gears up to fill a perceived gap in the market for good value, higher end, non-commodity accessories that look beautiful in the home and on store shelves, and perform well, too.