- Naohiko Noguchi
“My advice to young designers is to create something that is unique to them and they will see - it is so much fun to discover your own way of making things."
FIRST OF ALL, THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO ANSWER OUR QUESTIONS. YOU ARE WELL KNOWN FOR YOUR DISCRETION AND WE FEEL VERY HONOURED THAT YOU HAVE AGREED TO ORGANIZE THIS EXHIBITION OF YOUR COLLECTION IN OUR WHITEbIRD STORE IN SAINT-GERMAIN-DES-PRÉS, AN EXHIBITION THAT WILL UNDOUBTEDLY DELIGHT YOUR FANS, WHO ARE UNCONDITIONAL COLLECTORS OF YOUR WORK.
1. Could you tell us more about yourself and introduce your work to clients who aren’t yet familiar with it?
Ever since I was a child, I often looked at the clothes, hair, makeup of the adults or architects around me. After graduating from a fashion college in Tokyo, I went to Italy to study. When I was in my 20s and looking for a way to get involved in the fashion business, I happened to start making jewellery by watching and learning. The first ring I completed was a gift to my grandmother, who rented me the second floor of her house at the time, as a thank-you gift.
I started my own brand of men's silver jewellery, but at the age of 30 decided to move to Paris. I spent some time relaxing in an apartment near Canal Saint-Martin. Instead of the Japanese approach - “this is the way it should be'' - that I had been used to until then, I had time to think about many things such as "What do I think?" “What is comfortable for me?” What may be common sense to French people was very new to me as a Japanese person, and living in Paris has helped me to recognize myself more deeply.
After living in Paris for two years, I returned to Japan and established "Noguchi" with my current wife. I felt that the glittering jewellery we usually see contains negative elements that symbolise vanity, so I started to create jewellery that can be enjoyed as if it were an accessory, and jewellery that complements everyday clothes, even though it is made of fine materials.
2. How and where do you create your jewellery? Do you have a team of artisans that you have trained yourself? Do you have any work rituals?
I have my own studio about a 10-minute drive from my home. After having breakfast with my family, I leave the house at about 7:30. Lunch is a bento packed with leftovers from breakfast, a main dish of meat and miso soup in a jar. I return home as early as possible and I spend time with my wife and 7-year-old daughter in the evening.
We have a design team in our atelier in Tokyo, but I let them have their own, unique way of making things. I myself am self-taught in the jewellery industry, and I believe that if I imitate something in my designs, then my ideas will no longer be unique. Of course, if they have any questions, I am there to offer advice.
3. Your jewellery is unmistakeable. Can you tell us how you came up with the idea of applying the very special patina that reduces its shine?
As I mentioned earlier, I am uncomfortable with sparkling jewellery, and have been exploring textures and forms that blend well with the wearer. I have experimented with various proportions of alloyed gold and discovered the ideal 14k, which has a shadowy atmosphere and a natural shimmering effect.
This has not changed since the brand was first established. However, as myself and my close family members have aged, I have noticed that the texture can look duller than it has previously and our recent designs seem to have a little more sparkle than the texture we have used in the past.
4. Tell us about your inspirations… What are your influences in terms of jewellery, art and design? Are you attached to any particular objects? If yes, which ones?
The inspiration for my jewellery making, which I have continued to this day, comes from a variety of sources, including the clothes and personalities of people I meet every day and things I see on the street. Instead of writing down ideas on a white piece of paper, I explore new forms by imagining how people would wear them.
When I was 16 years old I inherited a ROLEX automatic hand-wound watch that was given to my parents by their relatives when they got married. As a young man, I longed for a cool watch like a diver's watch... However, I have been wearing it ever since, even though I have had to take it in for maintenance. I think the simplicity and universality of that design has guided my own design. I am also attracted to the strength of the watch, which continues to mark time and has been handed down, even though it is more than 60 years old.
6. Can you tell us about the jewellery line you have created for “Baby noguchi” and “profumo di noguchi” you recently launched?
When I had my first daughter at the age of 47, “Baby Noguchi” was born out of my desire to keep the memory of that moment. People forget many things easily, so I wanted to make jewellery so that parents, when they happen to look at it, will remember how tiny babies were, or how such and such happened at such and such a time… Since each piece is made to order to size, the jewellery is sold only at Noguchi's stores in Tokyo, but we will be accepting special orders at WHITE bIRD only from March 8 to 18, when our staff will be present at the gallery.
I think perfume is the same: when you smell a fragrance, it can bring back memories, and that's what I found attractive. Also, since I am a man, I felt bored with the notion that "I can only use perfumes labelled “Homme”. I designed the fragrance with categories of "Human" , made up of the scent themes “knowledge”, “emotion” and “intention”. We went to Florence and asked Mr. Lorenzo Villoresi to design the fragrance for us. It is a solid perfume so that it can be easily enjoyed at all times. The silver case, which I designed, is made by hand in our atelier in Tokyo. The fragrance is currently available only at Noguchi stores, but we are preparing to make it available in France.
7. You have just opened a 3rd store in Tokyo. Do you exhibit different jewellery and unique pieces there? Do you have other projects going on that you would like to tell us about?
The third location was opened in Marunouchi, Tokyo, where people of various ages, genders, and nationalities gather. The concept is "inclusive”. The store offers genderless rings that are comfortable on anyone, and can be worn in a casual or assertive way depending on the wearer. It has become a place where you can take your time and choose what you like.
8. Finally, what would you say to a young designer who wants to make a start in the world of jewellery?
I want them to create something that is unique to them. Jewellery design/making was solely self-taught, so there were times when I took detours, but I was not bound by the common sense of "how it should be”. I think that there are no correct answers for making things because when I went to Italy I found that the fashion making techniques I had learned in Japan, millimetre by millimetre, were completely different from those used in Italy. Of course, if you have a solid foundation you may be able to do more - but it is fun to discover your own way of making things.
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