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Q&A: Mikimoto’s Yasuhiko Hashimoto shares tips on identifying top pearls and upcoming debuts

When we think of lustrous pearls, the name Mikimoto immediately comes to mind. The heritage jewellery brand, founded in Japan in 1893, is widely known as the creator of the world’s first cultured pearl. Almost a century and a half later, the brand continues on its quest of achieving out-of-this-world opulence and refinement, all through its intricate pearl jewels that continue to capture our hearts with their mesmerising lustre.

Yasuhiko Hashimoto, Managing Director at Mikimoto, who’s been with the brand for 28 years, has long been one of the driving forces behind the legacy of the century-old jewellery house. He recently visited Mikimoto’s new Causeway Bay flagship to personally present us with the brand’s latest ‘Jardin Mysterieux’ high jewellery collection, and we took the opportunity to have a quick chat about his knowledge of pearls, the evolving jewellery market and new debuts to watch for.

Can you tell us more about pearls? How do you tell if a pearl is of great quality?

There are different types of cultured pearls such as the South Sea pearl and Golden (South Sea) pearl, which are, of course, beautiful, but I think the Japanese Akoya pearl is the most special of them all. Although the Akoya only comes in a maximum size of 10mm, the quality is extremely nice. When it comes to choosing a pearl the most important aspect is lustre. At Mikimoto, we have a very strict selection policy to ensure that both the shape and colour of our pearls are of exceptional quality.

You’ve been with Mikimoto for 28 years, how has the brand evolved during this time?

The customer demographic in general has really been changing year after year. In recent years, our customers have been getting much younger, so we’ve adjusted the price point and also the design. However, we have always maintained a pure aesthetic, which has lately been attracting new wealthy customers who are used to seeing big logos at other premium brands, as they find our designs very unique and refreshing.

Though a forever classic, pearl is still a rather niche type of jewellery. How does Mikimoto plan on making it more relatable to the taste of today’s customers?

The pearl is, of course, as you said, very classic, but it is, at the same time, an indispensable item for ladies for its timelessness. Of course, we have to adjust the design and how we present the pearl, and that’s exactly what we are concentrated on doing right now. On the other hand, the world knows Mikimoto as a pearl jeweller, but in Japan, we are also known to specialise in emerald, jade, rubies and more; so in the future, we shall expand the business to present not only the pearl, but other types of jewels as well. We’d like to show the world the other facades of Mikimoto’s identity as a jeweller.

Please tell us more about Mikimoto's 'Jardin Mysterieux' high jewellery collection.

Mikimoto Jardin Mysterieux high jewellery

Yes, we’ve decided the theme Jardin Mysterieux because last year, in 2018, we presented this collection for the first time as the official ‘Haute Joaillerie’ member of the Paris’ Federation de la Haute Couture et de la Mode (Federation of Haute Couture and Fashion). To mark the occasion, we’ve decided to opt for a theme that adheres to the French aesthetics. There are many beautiful gardens in Paris such as the Jardin des Tuileries, Parc Monceau or the Jardin Du Luxembourg, so we took inspirations from the floral motifs that we saw, and translated them into this elegant concept of a mysterious and enchanting garden.

What do you think of the Hong Kong market and how does Mikimoto plan on reaching customers here?

Compared with other countries, Hong Kong customers have a very special eye when it comes to jewellery, especially for pearls. They really do know everything. I would say that they are a group of highly educated consumers, and we are so worried (laughs), so we make sure we always show them our best merchandise in this market.

Since you also have a lot of experience in marketing and sales, can you tell us how it has changed your B2C strategies in today's digital world?

Digital marketing has really become a vital part of luxury businesses nowadays, but I think it can sometimes get too noisy. So intentionally we’ve decided to communicate our messages and information through captivating images, mainly via SMS and Instagram.

Have you come across a pearl in your career that simply took your breath away?

You know, there are so many pearls in the jewellery market across the globe, so I’m always keeping an eye out for pearls that would impress me. However, what I realised is that Mikimoto’s pearls are so exceptional due to the very strict selection policy, so I’m always very proud of the pearls that we present.

Is there any particular piece that you think should be on everyone's wish list?

Of course it depends on the customer, but there is one merchandise, called the Boucle Précieuse, that I would highly recommend. Bracelets are particularly popular among ladies nowadays, and this is a transformable piece that can not only be worn around your wrists, but also as a choker around your neck.

Mikimoto Boucle Précieuse

Do you have anything for men? How can men benefit from Mikimoto?

I’m wearing a bracelet in black South Sea cultured pearl today and this is something that is getting rather popular among the younger generation. I’ve also been seeing a lot of male models wearing pearls in magazines; and as you can imagine, pearl jewellery pieces were actually really popular amongst men such as the Maharaja and other royalties in the past, so it’s really interesting to see men start wearing pearls again today. Also — though the details are confidential — we will be collaborating with a very famous brand early next year, which will show another aspect of men’s jewellery, so make sure you keep an eye out for it.

Can you share something about Mikimoto that nobody knows about?

We’ve just debuted the very first Mikimoto fragrance, officially launching in 2020, that has been integrated with the essence of pearls. Mikimoto is, of course, very famous as a jewellery brand but perhaps in the future, we will start to expand and show our customers other aspects of Mikimoto, whether it’s more cosmetics or another fragrance and so on.

Q&A: Mikimoto’s Yasuhiko Hashimoto shares tips on identifying top pearls and upcoming debuts

Cindie Chan

Style Editor

Fashion blogger turned editor, Cindie has spent over seven years covering all things stylish in the digital world. When she’s not busy poring over the latest covetable releases or attending the most talked-about fashion events in town, you’ll find her enjoying some precious downtime with her newborn son and sweet dog Rosy.

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