by Kelly Wetherille
Hirotaka Inoue is not your typical fashion or jewelry designer. In fact, the path that eventually led him to design is about as winding as they come. Born into a family of doctors, Inoue was encouraged from a young age to go into medicine, but always had a feeling that this wasn’t the right place for him. After earning a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California in the US, he landed a job working for an IT company. Although his job, which boasted excellent compensation, was the envy of many of his friends and acquaintances, he didn’t feel completely satisfied. So one day, he decided to quit his job, drop everything, and move to Paris.
“I always knew something was wrong with my life. When I went to Paris, I just wanted to find myself,” Inoue says. This happened faster that he expected; immediately upon arrival, he realized that jewelry was his passion and the thing he wanted to spend his life doing. So he began studying jewelry design, using decorative French pieces from the 1920s as his inspiration.
While carrying out his studies, Inoue also began designing one-of-a-kind, custom-made pieces for private clients. “I really enjoy the face-to-face interaction,” he says. A wealthy Japanese client based in Paris took a liking to his unique design sense and introduced him to one of Japan’s largest jewelry wholesalers, which immediately offered him a job. So Inoue packed his bags once again and headed back to Tokyo, where he worked in product development for high-end jewelry. “It was very lucky for me to be able to join the company without any [relevant] background.”
After five years of working in jewelry, Inoue’s career took yet another unexpected turn when he took a job with one of Japan’s homeopathic organizations. “I was still trying to live up to the expectations of my parents, because that’s a medical thing, but I saw incredible art behind it,” he said. During this time he again picked up his custom-designed jewelry business, which he continues to this day.
But it wasn’t until just last year that Inoue finally launched his own line of jewelry, eponymously dubbed Hirotaka. According to his first catalog, the brand is “infinitely inspired by natural wonders,” and the inaugural collection includes whimsical renditions of serpents, thorny branches, sea horses, shells, hook orchids, swallows, butterflies, chameleons, and more. The pieces are fashioned from 18-karat gold and diamonds, and the gold comes in yellow, white, and an ashy, antique-looking ‘beige’ variety. “I would like to make my line go between fashion and real jewelry,” he says.
With Hirotaka, Inoue wants to have fun with his designs, and hopes that through them his customers will “enjoy the beauty of nature.” He plans to release new collections three to four times a year, and is also considering launching a lower-priced diffusion line, targeting a younger customer.
For more information or to view the complete line, visit: www.hiro-taka.com.