Hong Kong designer Narcisa Pheres introduces leading Japanese jeweller to the world

Better known for her men’s clothing lines, the certified diamond expert is adding her modern touch as the first creative director for Jewelry Maki

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 January, 2017, 2:17pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 January, 2017, 5:38pm

Hong Kong-based designer Narcisa Pheres made headlines when Michelle Obama wore one of her diamond rings at the US president’s farewell address. Pheres is known for making luxury clothing for men, she has been creating pieces under her own name since 2012. Now she’s the first creative director for one of Japan’s oldest jewellery houses, Jewelry Maki.

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“Maki found me through one of the many trunk shows I host in Japan. I didn’t know much about them except that in the 1990s they were one of the biggest jewellery companies in Japan with more than 2,000 stores,” says Pheres. “At one point they were buying about 30 per cent of De Beers’ diamond production. The company has 50 years of heritage but its business is mainly domestic. My job is to make the brand global by adding my modern touch.”

Her debut collection Aristeia, in stores and showrooms next month including Pheres in Hong Kong, departs from what she describes as Maki’s “kawaii” [cute] designs. Her inspiration came from the Zen temple gardens of Kyoto and the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, which finds beauty in imperfection. The result is a collection of modern-meets-vintage jewels made from mostly baguette diamonds – from statement earrings that curve around the ears to delicate bangles and rings.

“My favourite piece is the unisex Alcina bangle which has a rough unfinished look thanks to a mix of baguette and round diamonds set in dull gold. It embodies the concept of the collection because the unmatched textures make it unique and beautiful,” she says.

Although her collaboration with Jewelry Maki is new, Pheres’ passion for jewellery precedes her career in fashion design. A Gemological Institute of America certified diamond expert and jewellery designer, she began dealing with vintage jewellery in her 20s when she was living in Tokyo. In 2000, after being asked by clients, she began creating one-of-a-kind jewels for collectors.

“My first inspiration and the basis of most of my designs is architecture and art. I like to design ad hoc – it usually depends on my feeling and mood. I often spread the stones out in front of me to examine shapes and sizes. Then I start building the piece. It’s almost like a painting – you never know the final outcome.

“Once I had a collection with brown diamonds, which many people said reminded them of spices. Another client thought of the Duomo in Milan. Each piece resonates with different cultures and because of this, I see my jewellery as bridging gaps between cultures,” says Pheres.

Her collaboration with Jewelry Maki can be described as a cross-cultural exchange. Although she is of Romanian and Greek heritage, she has spent half her adult life in Japan and speaks the language. She hopes to create a new identity for Maki with global appeal.

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“I have based a couple of designs on the brand’s heritage but it’s about modernising Maki so I plan to go into new things. Maki is known for the quality of their stones so I really want to play with designs that aren’t typically Japanese,” she says.

Maki plans to open five new stores under the Narcisa Pheres for Jewelry Maki brand in August, to add to their 25 stores in Japan. Pheres is already thinking about her second collection.

“I don’t think the collections will always have a connection to Japan. The Japanese tend to love everything foreign so it’s interesting. What I love the most is that I have the freedom to create anything I want. There’s no limit to what I can make, which is exciting,” she says.