Blogs: All That Glitters / Pearls

130 Years of Mikimoto: Q&A With COO Kentaro Nishimura


Whenever there’s a discussion involving pearls, Mikimoto is bound to enter the chat. This year, the company is celebrating 130 years since its founder Kokichi Mikimoto pioneered the cultured pearl and founded a business on the concept; six years later, he would open a store in Tokyo’s Ginza district, and today Mikimoto is probably the most famous luxury purveyor of pearls on the planet.

Marilyn Monroe x Mikimoto Boutique Display
As classic as it gets: Marilyn Monroe’s Mikimoto strand, gifted by her husband Joe DiMaggio during their 1954 honeymoon in Japan

The brand is commemorating its 130th anniversary with a series of lyrical short films titled A Love Letter to the Sea. A number of special-edition jewelry designs with akoya, South Sea, and conch pearls alongside marine blue sapphires have been released to celebrate Mikimoto’s relationship with the sea. Anniversary initiatives also include the continuation of its efforts to promote sustainable pearl farming while preserving biodiversity and ecosystems.

Mikimoto 130th anniversary collection
Some of the special-edition releases for Mikimoto’s 130th anniversary 

A check-in with Mikimoto seemed in order as the company reaches the milestone. And for this, JCK connected with Kentaro Nishimura, chief operating officer of Mikimoto America, to discuss the brand’s trajectory across these many years, with a particular emphasis on the here and now.

Kentaro Nishimura Mikimoto COO
Kentaro Nishimura

Mikimoto is a great example of a luxury brand that has managed to stay current with the times even though pearls, by definition, are classic, a wardrobe staple. How have you been able to achieve this?

While pearls are a mainstay of fashion, we’ve evolved our pearl jewelry styles over the years, introducing genderless and more youthful styles that appeal to a wider audience.

We’ve done this through like-minded partnerships and fashion-forward collections, such as Comme des Garçons and Passionoir, which not only demonstrate our ability to innovate and remain at the forefront of jewelry style but also our versatility and appeal to a wide range of audiences. Mikimoto seeks to maintain the importance and relevance of pearls regardless of age and gender through fine jewelry that emphasizes the beauty of pearls [while] challenging and pushing boundaries.

Mikimoto Comme des Garcons
Mikimoto has partnered since 2020 with Comme des Garçons on collections that challenged the traditional feminine beauty of pearls by incorporating masculine design elements such as chains, studs, and fangs. 
Mikimoto Passionoir
Passionoir, a genderless collection featuring black South Sea cultured pearls set in black rhodium–plated silver, introduced new concepts for the brand, such as ear cuffs and black South Sea layered strands.
Introduced in 2020, Mikimoto Eau de Parfum was the brand’s first foray in the fragrance category—“a natural step for the brand, as fragrance evokes emotion and parallels the beauty and emotion felt in wearing a treasured piece of pearl jewelry,” says Nishimura.

Another example might be the V Code collection, which was well received at Las Vegas Jewelry Week this past spring.

Yes, building on Mikimoto’s past collections designed with a genderless and ageless style in mind, V Code can be worn by anyone for any occasion. These pieces are a departure from classic and rounded compositions, and represent strength and vitality. They demonstrates Mikimoto’s continued commitment to innovation, unparalleled craftsmanship and artistry, while appealing to the current influence of social culture.

Mikimoto V code collection
Highlights from the 2023 V Code collection

In 130 years, is there a decade you would consider the heyday for Mikimoto, its finest hour? 

This year certainly stands out, as we kicked off the year at New York Fashion Week, with our pearls adorning the models who walked Marc Jacobs’ spring 2023 show. Just before the Met Gala in May we hosted a 130th-anniversary celebration for friends of the brand at Central Park Towers, which was attended by stars like Katie Holmes, Janelle Monáe, Amber Valletta, and Brooklyn and Nicole Beckham. At the actual event, Kerry Washington, Ashley Graham, Ashley Park, Allison Williams, Brooklyn Beckham, and [NBA player] Shai Gilgeous-Alexander were seen wearing Mikimoto pearls. We are continuing this momentum with more new product launches and digital and in-person brand moments.

Pearls are having a moment with men! How is what’s happening in the culture influenced Mikimoto’s evolution as a brand? 

Men have been wearing pearls for centuries, but the trend as we know it today began before the pandemic and first appeared on the fashion runways. At Mikimoto, we don’t assign genders to our jewelry pieces because historically, classic pearl strands were universal. Mikimoto has garnered enormous attention from male consumers and received 14 times more dressing requests from notable male celebrities over the past two years, including Academy Award winner Questlove, A$AP Rocky, Lewis Hamilton, and more.

Which piece from the 130th-anniversary releases is most special to you?

My favorite piece is the conch and akoya cultured pearl necklace with diamonds in 18k white gold. It’s a perfect example of timeless elegance—fit for royalty thousands of years ago or a high-fashion runway today. One of the world’s most unique and luxurious gems, conch pearls are produced naturally by the queen conch mollusk. They are an example of the extreme rarity and uniqueness that Mikimoto offers, and even more stunning surrounded by our carefully curated akoya pearls.

Top: Ocean Collection white South Sea cultured pearl necklace with sapphire rondelles in 18k white gold, $210,000

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Amy Elliott

By: Amy Elliott

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