The Japanese jewellery designer talks finding new forms in layering and experimentation
Hirotaka is the Japanese jewellery brand abstracting nature to create clean, modern metal. Giving both his name and his vision to the label, for Hirotaka Inoue it’s the quiet details that speak the loudest, structuring his compositions around bold simplicity. Here, he talks us through his world of inspirations and the curator’s spirit that drives his approach to layering…
How did Hirotaka begin?
I have a background in designing more traditional, high end jewellery with large precious centre stones. It was a big challenge for me to explore the fashion jewellery industry, and after several years of developing my own original ideas and style, I decided to show the first collection in New York in 2010 – a small trunk show in Soho that was well received by stylists, editors, and influencers. Everything magically unravelled from there. Pieces that were featured in the first exhibition have become some of our signature designs: ear cuffs, Arrow earrings, Floating earrings.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
Abstraction is the key element of Hirotaka. I admire many historical movements like Bauhaus, Japanese minimalism, and the Modernist art movement in Scandinavia. At the same time, I love organic shapes and observing natural wonders – especially details of insects and flowers – and extract the core element, making the original motif almost invisible and pure to achieve timeless designs.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Observing details of what’s around me. I always carry a stack of white sheets of paper and different types of pens so that I can scribble down any image that come into my mind. It can be anything really, the source of inspiration is in the beholder’s eye.
Tell us more about the connection to nature.
There is no doubt that nature is the best teacher, even state of the art technology tries to mimic or learn from what nature achieves with ease. I have a strong interest in tropical rainforests and giant kelp forests under the sea, both have dense populations of diverse creatures. They all have their own strategies to survive and attract partners with unbelievable shapes, colours, behaviours. I believe when competition is fierce, strategy takes extreme measures and we see that happen more in the tropical region. It gives me a strong desire to understand, mimic, and become part of the whole wondrous world. I believe that this is my deepest motivation to create, and it happens to take the form of jewellery.
Abstraction is the key element of Hirotaka. I love organic shapes and observing natural wonders – especially details of insects and flowers – and extract the core element.
What excites you most about developing new designs?
It is like pulling my jewellery out from my intangible imagination and seeing it take physical form. Then they go off having a life of their own and speak to others. It is like any other form of art, a very fluid and abstract process but the final result is very rewarding.
How do you source your raw materials?
We are very conscious about using ethical and repurposed raw materials. We check the origin of the stones and make sure that they are environmentally friendly and ethically sourced.
What are your favourites ways to wear and layer your jewellery?
Asymmetric styling has always been my look since the beginning. Each piece may seem simple and not at all decorative; however, by stacking we achieve a dramatic, rather personal landscape that complements daily style without overwhelming it.
Do you have any favourite pieces from the collection?
I love the combination of stacking Caviar pearl earrings and simple diamond ear cuffs and mixing with black onyx pieces. The Caviar pearl ear cuff has the tiniest pearls you can find, and it takes a great deal of expertise to set them in a perfect straight line.
Each piece may seem simple; however, by stacking we achieve a dramatic, rather personal landscape that complements daily style without overwhelming it.
Have you got any advice for wearing multiple earrings at once?
Be playful and creative. Try an asymmetrical style. Asymmetry creates more movement in styling and a whimsical feeling. Try different combinations and let your personality shine.
Can you describe your creative process?
I draw constantly throughout the day using many different media. Mostly black and white in 2D and sometimes explore shapes with clays and metal lines in 3D forms. I love experimenting with many different shapes and do not hesitate to make many, many samples. I love letting the idea take actual physical form and sometimes use them to see what they have to say and make them better – this cycle never ends.
Be playful and creative. Try an asymmetrical style. Asymmetry creates more movement in styling and a whimsical feeling.
What does working with Japanese artisans help you achieve?
To work with skilled artisans is always very inspirational and fun. Without their perfectionist yet playful approach, Hirotaka cannot exist. To make one piece is a long process and it sometimes can become like a winding road, but after working with them for many years, we share a deep understanding of our standards and styles.
How have your experiences in Tokyo, Paris and New York shaped the collection?
These cities reflect different parts of my growth. Tokyo is where I was born, where I left, and where I came back to as an adult. Tokyo has many different facets, but to me this city is an incredible mix of old and new, minimal and chaos - and that inevitably had a strong influence on the foundation of my creativity. Paris is where I decided to become a jeweller in my late 20s. I lived in the heart of the Marais, and without that experience I probably would not have become a jewellery designer. New York is linked to the beginning of the brand, where I launched as a jewellery designer. The city and its inspiration is a part of me now. These three cities come full circle and complement my life story.