Fashion jewellers in Japan have developed their own set of aesthetics regardless of trends: they often draw inspiration from traditional elements and handicrafts and combine them with innovative ideas to create niche items. Five Japanese jewellery makers share their insights with AFJA Review.
SAYA Jewelry Tokyo
Versatile and diversified best describes the fashion jewellery and accessories industry in Japan. As Sayaka Tanaka, founder of SAYA Jewelry Tokyo, states, the market accommodates a variety of styles and different price ranges, catering to different clienteles. Echoing the minimalist trend, delicate and dainty pieces seem to be in vogue in recent years, according to Tanaka. Among these, cotton pearls (made from natural cotton by compression and coating) are quite a thing. They are light and chic.
Tanaka’s latest creation is a collection of earrings decked out with cotton pearls and Swarovski crystal and with a matte gold flower motif, wholesaled at US$24.90. All of her jewellery is handmade in Japan. At the moment, she is launching a number of exclusive pieces each month. “Apart from the local market, I receive numerous orders from the United States. I hope I can venture into the international market some day.”
With more original handmade jewellery available nowadays, Tanaka believes the market demand will shift from mass-produced to handcrafted jewellery, while the originality and creativity of indie designers will inspire the whole industry to further evolve and take it to the next level.
“The Japanese fashion market tends not to be influenced much by trends: instead, people embrace various styles that are able to express their own personalities, such as traditional, modern, retro, handicraft, vintage, metallic, sweet and cute,” Mafumi Ishihara Burmester, co-founder of KINUKA, explained.
Kaga yubinuki is one of the historical handicraft styles long established in Japan, and it is the style of KINUKA’s specialised products. Mafumi and her partner, Eriko, enhance the traditional trade with a modern twist and originality, and it turns out those pieces are very well received in the market. Customers do appreciate originality and the intricate craftsmanship. Currently, KINUKA is producing a maximum of 30 pieces each month. The aim is to produce a small quantity so as to make every piece unique and individual. They may readjust the production plan in the future.
“Japanese silk thread is the main material of our charms, earrings, rings and bangles. Our products wholesale at from US$25 to US$70. In general, shades of blue are quite popular with my customers. Last but not least, we’d like to introduce some floral prints and bold colours for our Spring/Summer 2017 collection. And if possible, we hope to participate in the handicraft market in Germany to introduce the art of kaga yubinuki to the world.”
“Since December 2009 I have been in charge of all jewellery making processes, from sketching, prototype making, flow of design and manufacturing to quality control,” Kaori Nakanishi, designer at Chéravir, told us.
Dainty designs and sophisticated details are the essence of Chéravir jewellery. “Crème & Fraise” and “Dress Up” are their latest collection, in which Akoya pearls and garnets decorate ruffles or cloth pieces, giving wearers a 3D sense of touch. “Crème & Fraise” and “Dress Up” wholesale at from US$130 to US$300 and from US$300 to US$450 respectively. Usually, the company produces 100 pieces a year, and launches two collections per year.
Nakanishi foresees voluminous pieces and shades of blue being in vogue in Spring/Summer 2017. “With more overseas orders coming in recent years, we hope to further refine our jewellery and further promote Chéravir, and gain more popularity in the world.”
Having two decades of experience in the fashion jewellery industry, owner of Yuko Jewelry Yuko Machida, by observing the market, spotted that the potential of handicraft jewellery is surging in recent years. Nowadays, the individuality of a piece is always a factor.
Her designs are well received in United States, Australia and Europe, especially the bridal collection. On the other hand, customers from Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong tend to go more for the delicate styles with smaller stones for everyday occasions.
“Most of my jewellery pieces are in a soft colour palette. Recently I tried darker colour combinations, and adopted new stones such as lapis lazuli, dark blue sapphire and opaque stones. It turns out these pieces are quite popular among customers. Monthly production reaches 150 pieces, and they wholesale at from US$50.” Machida plans to adopt the traditional Japanese metal-engraving technique in her jewellery, and hopes this will bring her customers fresh insights and new accessorising experiences.
Atelier Shinji is a family business established in the 1970s and currently based in Ginza, Tokyo. Having a background of graphic design, photography and textiles, Atelier Shinji’s handmade jewellery is imbued with non-traditional vibes. Their monthly production quantity reaches 150 to 200 pieces.
“As we specialise in the gold and silver layering technique, it makes our Sakura and Gingko collections [made of gold and silver] very popular. We plate high-purity silver with 23K gold, then we scrape away part of the gold to reveal the silver underneath. This delicate finish gives a unique beauty to a piece,” said Janine Naoi, owner of Atelier Shinji.
Featuring 18K gold and a two-tone mix of 18K gold and Britannia silver 958, the company’s latest collection is a modern interpretation of the Japanese “Enmusubi (a knot tie symbolising the destiny of union and relationships).” Naoi reveals that they are planning to apply more precious metals in their collections in an unconventional way.