As the Chrome Hearts led luxury gothic boom in silver jewelry died off in Japan by the late 2000s, only to be reborn in South Korea and beyond, the interest that it had brought in from the mainstream also began to dwindle which in turn regrettably pushed out many of the niche designers from the main fashion hubs of Shibuya, Harajuku and (in the 00s at least) Daikanyama.  I for one am not going to morn the loss of the fakes and derivative designers that used to make up the numbers, but I do miss the sense of community that such a large number of silver fans created as they congregated, compared work and drank in the workshops.   But only this year it looks like the Tokyo silver scene has bounced back, Beyond Cool returned to the scene in Tokyo with a high profile location at the entrance to UraHara and an updated look helmed by Starlingear, and it looks like the pioneering generation pushed out of Harajuku have found their place over in Horikiri.

I made my first pilgrimage to the area only last weekend, greeted by the smell of irises from the gardens that most people make the journey for, and quickly found myself back in my element with some of the best jewelry I have seen in a long time from the likes of Dual Flow, Ability Normal, Deaf Breed and Inspiri.  Interestingly the 4 designers who have their flagships all within minutes of each other work very closely together, regularly collaborating and sharing ideas, which is probably why the quality of their craft is such a level up from pretty much anyone working today and at the same stratospheric level I would put Legiomade and Guardia on.

I took a look around their respective shops, snapping some highlights as I went and if you want to follow in my footsteps I will put in the relevant links along the way.

First up is Seven’s Magic (homepage) which is home to the very different forces of Dual Flow and Ability Normal.

Dual Flow is a designer interested in uniting Polynesian motifs with the Japanese, and finding the common thread between.  You only need to look back to Jomon and Yayoi, the facial tattoo traditions in Ainu culture and so on to see that there is actually a lot to work with on this tangent.

The range of textures on this octopus ring was fantastic, and when worn it hugs the finger closely.

This kind of mixture of the Polynesian tattoos with Japanese phoenix pretty much captures Dual Flow’s current direction, as does the muted ibushi finish.

The designer also works with wood in the best netsuke tradition – but regrettably he wouldn’t sell this to me.

Dual Flow has also started working with brass sheeting to create these stunning engravings, hopefully we will see these techniques turn up in his jewelry work soon.

On to Ability Normal:

Ability Normal’s designer was tied up with the psychedelic and techno scene so it is no surprise to see strong elements of the biomechanical coming through, but they have been refined significantly since the 90s and are looking pleasingly refined and abstract.

Looking at really early work from Ability Normal (above) you can see just how far he has come in terms of detail and composition, but even at this stage he puts many more famous designers to shame.

Moving on to Deaf Breed in his new home of Apple – a shop disguised as windowless snack bar (address and blog here).

Deaf Breed takes the organic elements of Ability Normal to their logical conclusion creating mutated silver forms that are both abstract and defined in a way that Lovecraft would surely approve of.

The shop is like a trip into the designer’s imagination – not such a leap from my own tastes, but those with an aversion to taxidermy might struggle.

A taste of Deaf Breed’s work, see much more on the link above.

Finally we have Inspi (homepage) who is probably the most abstract of the team.

I don’t want this to become too much of an epic so you can see his work up close at the link above, and hopefully you will enjoy his abstraction of organic forms.  I will say that he is probably the easiest to wear of the four – so this might be a good place to dip your toe.

My favorite thing about the Inspi shop in Horikiri is that he operates it as both a workshop and shop, making the jewelry right next to the eventual finished designs on display.  I don’t wan’t to start calling out designers who don’t actually produce their own work (and we all know that when you get to mass-market level you need to bring in a team), but there is something really special about every item passing through the same pair of hands at the heart of the silver scene.

I advise all with an interest in silver to give Horikiri a visit – especially over the next two Sundays as there are live events at Seven’s Magic and Apple you can watch (details on Deaf Breed’s blog above).  I am not sure if it matters as to whether this style of silver becomes the next big boom in Japanese silver, or even if it is your taste or not.  You just have to admire the care and complexity that goes into it, the fact that they are producing epic pieces for the sake of it which only a handful will buy, and the fact that they are just getting on with creating as the rest of the silver scene seems content to rest on their laurels.  So pay them a visit if you can and peruse online if you can’t, hopefully it will remind you of why you got into silver in the first place or else make some new converts.

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2 Responses to The New Promised Land for the Japanese Silver Jewelry Scene

  1. Clare says:

    Thanks for this post Samuel. I’ve not heard of Insipi but have been watching the other designers for a while. No purchases yet but I am quite taken with the “abstract organic” theme – visceral, yet beautiful, and the skill and imagination is so far beyond the cliched goth motifs that I feel I should have in my collection but actually don’t. Have had DualFlow’s “Bluff” pendant on my wish list for a while now – the swivelling Japanese face that masks a skull and can be worn to show either side. And the skull/phoenix ring is an epic piece I would love to own. Shall be checking out those websites again and adding more to the list…seriously, how do you live in Tokyo and not go beserk restraining yourself from buying everything in sight?

  2. Samuel says:

    @ Clare

    Glad to hear you enjoyed it, I had a great time shooting it all and talking silver with the designers over a beer. As for not going on a constant buying spree, it does take a lot of restraint, but most of the time I try to think of jewelry and silver as art to be enjoyed and considered rather than to necessarily own.

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