TOKYO – Now that the pandemic has delayed many travel plans indefinitely, you can only dream of destinations like Tokyo and Seoul (unless, of course, you already live in one of those cities).
But if you can’t visit such places, you can at least wear something that evokes them. Here is a sample of the designers who make the latest jewelry from Asia: elegant and conceptual creations; playful accessories for your face mask; even full rings. Enjoy the escape.
Seoul, South Korea
Hath, a company that was only formed last December, intended to debut this fall in Italy and Japan (where it had good retail partners and where there is a prime market. fine jewelry plan) – but 2020 had other ideas.
“We didn’t want to postpone our project, so we just changed the plan and launched in South Korea,” Minyoung Park, 34, said in a FaceTime interview from the company’s small brick-walled workshop in Seoul. .
He is in charge of communication, marketing, merchandising and retail. Hwaseung Lee, 39, and Hyunsuk Yang, 30, the designers and jewelers, complete the brand’s team.
Mr. Lee started metalworking around 20 years ago when he was in the South Korean military. (Service is compulsory for young men.) “I used to draw pictures on Zippo lighters,” he said, then give them to my fellow soldiers at the end of their service. “They have always loved them,” he added.
After completing his service, he lived in Tokyo for a year and, inspired by Japanese crafts and materials, then enrolled as an apprentice in a workshop in Seoul to learn how to make jewelry. His day job, however, was to buy luxury men’s clothing.
A few years ago, the two interests merged. “We came up with the idea of making jewelry combining various metals and gemstones with fabric,” Mr. Lee said. The result was a collection called Ribbon in the Sky, which mixes metal charms with colorful ribbons in bracelet, anklet, necklace and ring variations.
Mr. Lee’s visit to the Duomo in Milan in 2012 inspired the brand’s current collection. “I was shocked by the pillars, the tiles, the stained glass windows, the balance of the structure,” he said. “In our rooms, the shape of the metal bars came from the pillars and the loop came from the shape of the arch and the central window. “
The collection, with coins priced at 169,000 South Korean won (around $ 150) is sold in the upscale Galleria department store as well as the Hath flagship store in the nearby Hannam-dong district of the South Korean capital. . “For a young brand like us, being stored in the Galleria was very valuable,” said Mr. Park, as it allowed a wider audience to experience the team’s work. And just a few days ago, they learned that the Shinsegae department store would sell the jewelry in two of its stores.
In the brand’s make-to-order system, customers can choose from 36 ribbon colors and three types of silver charms (gold, platinum, and even diamond versions are also available) for immediate in-store making or for delivery to the store department within three to five days.
But while the pandemic delayed partners’ business plans, it also prompted their version of a mask bead (48,000 won), an item they noticed was trending on the streets of Seoul. The cord, which combines sterling silver and a silk ribbon, is meant to keep a face mask handy, and it can also be worn as a necklace or bracelet.
“When the virus ends, we’re not sure we’ll still make the cord, but this article has played an important role in allowing us to create new designs that meet contemporary issues and needs,” Park said. .
Taro Hanabusa, once a dentist in a clinic here, now creates bespoke jewelry for clients like Cardi B and Lady Gaga.
“I love backpacking trips and, working as a dentist, it was impossible to have a long vacation,” he said from his dark studio upstairs in Tokyo’s Katsushika district.
But his dental training was helpful, said the 40-year-old designer, as he takes molds of body parts like fingers and ears – using much the same process as dentists – to produce his silver creations. .
In 2012, when he started fangophilia, “I started with teeth because it was easy for me,” he said. (Marilyn Manson regularly wears a Fangophilia grill on her upper teeth.)
Mr. Hanabusa describes his jewelry as a second skin of metal. “I think the natural body shape is so beautiful, so I just cut out the body part, using metal,” he said. “I’ve never been inspired by other jewelry or fashion brands, but I love body modifications and tattoos so much. My inspirations came from this kind of culture.
Some of his pieces, Mr. Hanabusa said, are designed to have a major impact on the shoots of magazines or music videos (like “Only” by Nicki Minaj in 2014 or “Money” by Cardi B in 2018). G-Dragon, Grimes, and Kat von D also wore her designs.
While his primary focus remains on bespoke pieces, Hanabusa plans to showcase a full spring ready-to-wear collection that will be sold in New York (Shop Untitled) and London (Lab Store) and online. He said he aimed to meet a wide range of budgets and tastes with adjustable nail rings, nail caps, finger tip rings, knuckle rings and various ear cups, such as covers. pointed ears. Prices range from $ 50 to $ 250.
Mr Hanabusa said he travels around half the year, meeting clients from all over the world. But the closed borders of 2020 haven’t been so bad.
“The pandemic has given me time to stop and think of new ideas and make new parts,” he said.
Collection of phenomena
When the worlds of Keisaku Nagasaki and Fuyuka Tsuji collided, Phenomena Collection is the result.
About 20 years ago, they were both college students: Mr. Nagasaki was studying metal modeling, and Ms. Tsuji was focusing on visual communication, design, and photography.
“We wanted to see what it would be like when two people who study different fields, think differently, and have opposing personalities create something on the same theme,” Nagasaki, 45, wrote in an email. “It was experimental, like a chemical reaction.” The formula worked: they got married in 2002.
In 2010, the couple presented the jewelry collection, conceptually inspired pieces, as Mr. Nagasaki writes, “invisible things such as words in a conversation between two people”. They work in this small town just north of Nagoya.
At first glance, the square, cube and triangle shaped items look like small works of art and make you wonder what is the right way to wear them. But this is the desired effect: some rings, for example, act as ear protectors.
“Why don’t you change the way you think and look at him? Mr. Nagasaki wrote. “This is the concept that we created. It is surprising and unexpected.
The pieces are in sterling silver and 10 or 18k yellow gold, and prices range from 5,000 yen ($ 48) for the small cube-shaped silver earrings to around 53,000 for the yellow gold rings. .
Tatsuro Motohashi, the owner of Xanadu Tokyo, an independent boutique in the trendy Harajuku district of Tokyo, carries the brand and said that it appeals to a lot of people: “I have everyone, older office women. young fashion students who come to buy pieces. In his shop, Mr Motohashi shows off large gold or silver cuffs that can be worn as belts, and what the Phenomena collection calls Border glasses: a narrow, semi-circular band that can be clipped onto the bridge of the nose. like glasses.
For their spring 2021 collection, Mr. Nagasaki and Ms. Tsuji, 44, were inspired by the spread of the coronavirus. “This is a situation that should not have happened,” Mr. Nagasaki wrote.
They created a ring, called Off, with a protruding part that doesn’t quite fit around the finger – a feature that represents the pandemic. (It sells for between 33,000 and 52,000, depending on the material.)
But, he wrote, “We also hope that we can forget about this situation and relax.”