By Ashley Davis
This month’s One to Watch is Japanese brand Shihara, designed by Yuta Ishihara.
This month’s One to Watch is Japanese brand Shihara, designed by Yuta Ishihara.

New York--Recently, Shihara has been on the lips of many fashion-forward retailers.

Portland, Oregon jewelry store Twist is an enthusiast, as owner Paul Schneider told National Jeweler, and up-and-coming Brooklyn boutique Quiet Storms is a stockist.

Shihara isn’t new; the Japanese brand, designed by Yuta Ishihara, was founded eight years ago and boasts its own Tokyo flagship, but the company has made a recent push into the U.S. market to much excitement and acclaim.

The buzz is due to the ingenuity of the design. Though Ishihara’s formal education is in jewelry, he approaches his work with the mind of an engineer, dismantling accepted, basic jewelry-making concepts, such as the way an earring closes with a post, and inventing new ways of integrating function with aesthetic.
20161115 OTW-Shihara-INSERTHere, Ishihara creates forms via the earring's chain, reimagining a chain’s traditional function.

Ishihara’s 3-D square and triangle earrings, from one of his first collections, which have become a sort of signature, utilize one edge of the earring’s structure as its closure, going through the ear and connecting to the rest of the design seamlessly, without any wasted space to accommodate for an earring back.

This ethos is repeated in all Ishihara’s collections, in a process he calls “subtraction.” He takes away unnecessary elements, letting that process inform the overall design concept of each piece.

National Jeweler sat down with fine jewelry’s most innovative new designer to see through the world through the inventive eyes of Shihara.

National Jeweler: Tell me about your professional background. What brought you to jewelry design?

Yuta Ishihara: I’ve always loved fashion. I didn’t really agree with the fast pace and how everything changes so often. With jewelry, you can put it on your body like fashion but it lasts much longer. I like the possibility that when someone buys my jewelry they can hand it down to generations later. Even after I pass away, my creations will keep living with personal feelings attached to the product. There’s not very many things in this world that last for 200 or 300 years. I like the idea that I can create something that would last for that long.

NJ: What is the inspiration behind your collections?

YI: Everybody has to attach the jewelry somehow, there’s a way that you attach it to the body but I design how it can be put onto your body. For example, a lot of jewelry brands buy a hardware separately from their design and put it together, but jewelry is so small and sometimes half of the jewelry is the pre-made hardware. I wanted to design the whole thing. Instead of adding by design, I subtract. When I keep subtracting only the hardware remains. I rethink and design the way that it’s put on the body and the way that it’s worn because without being worn it’s not really jewelry.

NJ: Where is your jewelry made?

YI: It’s all made in Japan.

NJ: What should retailers focus on, or what story should they tell, when showing your line to customers?

YI: Some stores have only a small selection of what I have overall so I just want retailers to explain the cool concept of the brand. A lot of the times, if you only see one piece of my work, you can’t tell what it is because of the way the hardware is designed and how the piece has been “subtracted.” Without the retailers explaining the piece, it can be difficult to understand what it is or the concept.

NJ: How much inventory must a retailer invest in to carry your brand?

YI: Usually, even within one collection, I have different variations, so I would ask to have at least three variations per collection that a retailer carries and a few collections would help. By putting only a little bit, it can be hard to understand. I often play with size and angles so even if it’s one collection there will be five or six different variations. Maybe the size gets bigger or the angle is different.

NJ: What retailers are currently carrying your line?

YI: In the United States, Dover Street Market, Barneys, Jeffrey, La Garconne, Fivestory, Quiet Storms, Need Supply Co. and Twist.

NJ: What is the price range of your pieces?

YI: The lowest pricing point is about $300 and the highest is around $6,000.

NJ: At which trade shows do you exhibit or are you planning to exhibit?

YI: I haven’t done any trade shows but I show with Rainbowwave, a sales showroom.

NJ: What are your plans for upcoming collections?

YI: I have many collections, but without adding too many I want to figure out a way to give more variety within my existing collections.

NJ: Complete this sentence: “People would be surprised to learn that I …”

YI: That I’m not as rigid or as intense as my jewelry. I have a goofy side and my house isn’t as clean as you might expect.

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Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.