Noriko Otsuka, senior vice president of merchandising at Mikimoto in New York, had just returned from Kobe, the hub of Japan’s pearl trade, when she spoke to JCK in mid-October about the venerable pearl house’s outlook on the pearl market circa 2023.
“Demand in the U.S. market is increasing,” Otsuka says. “Availability is more limited, and value is increasing because of the pearl shortage. Since demand increased in Asia, Mikimoto has increased prices on August 1 this year by 30%. But people are still buying. We are doing good. There is so much demand.”
Below, Otsuka shares her perspective on the styles Mikimoto expects to sell well over the holidays, the growth in the men’s business, and what company founder Kokichi Mikimoto might say about the brand if he were alive today.
On holiday hits
This fall, Mikimoto is leaning into its high jewelry business with a bigger focus on exclusive pieces such as those using the rare conch pearl. “Some people like very natural and different pearls, but in most cases they already have simple strands and golden South Seas, and then they go to conch,” Otsuka says. “These days, many people ask for conch, so we’re adding more availability.”
Mikimoto will soon release its holiday gift guide, featuring a new genderless collection and plenty of classic South Sea pearls in 11 mm sizes set with diamonds in earrings and pendants. “Those are very popular, so we are adding more availabilities this fall,” says Otsuka.
On men in pearls
In 2020, Mikimoto teamed with the fashion label Comme des Garçons, by the Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo, on a gender-neutral collection of jewelry that earned both brands the attention of tastemakers—and seemed to catalyze the current vogue for men in pearls.
“Men have been wearing pearls for centuries,” Otsuka says. Today’s trend today began during the pandemic and was first seen on fashion runways, with Comme des Garçons and also Marc Jacobs.
“These days all Mikimoto products are gender-neutral designs,” Otsuka adds. “At Mikimoto we don’t assign gender to our jewelry pieces.”
She cites the “more masculine” Passionoir collection of Tahitian black pearls set in black rhodium–plated silver, which Mikimoto introduced in 2021. “We feature male models in our campaign to emphasize the pearls’ versatility,” she says.
“Little by little, men are wearing even simple strands,” she adds, “and brooches on jackets.”
On anniversary celebrations
“This year has been incredibly special for the brand because it’s our 130th anniversary,” Otsuka says. “We’re spending this year celebrating our coexistence with nature and especially with the sea.”
Mikimoto’s anniversary products have been extremely popular, Otsuka says. “As we step into the new year, we are excited to introduce new styles.”
And if Mr. Mikimoto were alive today, what would he say about the brand’s global positioning? “He must be surprised,” she says. “And so proud of our business.”
Top: Brooch in 18k white gold with conch pearl, akoya cultured pearls, pink sapphires, and diamonds, $97,000Follow JCK on Instagram: @jckmagazine
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