Michael Hakimian is CEO of Yoko London, a relatively young luxury pearl jeweller specialising in hand-picking exquisite, perfect pearls. In the hands of designers and craftsmen in their London workshop, they become intricate and beautiful jewellery designs which have quickly attracted acclaim. Here, Hakimian gives us an insight into the company, and reveals just what it is that makes their jewels so special… You began your brand in 1973 and have achieved a lot in that time. How’s the experience been?
It has been an extremely gratifying experience. I joined the company straight out of university and it is both exciting and inspiring to see how the company has evolved with the times over the last 44 years. My father founded the company in 1973 and we now have three generations of the family working for the business.
What have been the highlights?
There have been many highlights. Some recent ones definitely stand out. In 2013 four Yoko London sets from our Masterpiece Collection were chosen to go on display at the V&A’s Pearls exhibition. We were chosen to represent modern pearls, for the creative vibrancy of our designs and our use of natural colour pearls. In 2015, we were chosen as the Official Jewellery Partner for the BAFTAs – stars and VIPs bejewelled themselves in our exquisite designs for the awards and surrounding parties. We have also had many of the world’s most famous women wearing our pieces to important events around the globe. At the end of last year Michelle Obama wore our pearl jewellery to two separate events as First Lady. We have also had global megastars like Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry wear our pieces.
The brand has been in the Hakimian family for three generations. What are the advantages of this?
We are an extremely close-knit team, and the whole team feels like family whether we are related or not. Some of our employees have worked with us for over 30 years and we really value the loyalty and dedication of all of our staff. There is definitely a certain passion which comes with being a family business, too. The reigns have been passed down from generation to generation, and there is a great sense of protectiveness and of course responsibility that we all feel towards the brand. From the customer’s perspective, as a family brand we offer a personal level of service that you do not always receive with bigger brands. We always strive to do everything in our power to keep all of our clients happy, as well as providing them with the best service we possibly can. We always make sure we have plenty of time for our clients and thoroughly enjoy working closely alongside them to turn their visions into reality.
Pearls are your passion, and sourcing them is a long process. Why does it take so long?
The pearls we work with are cultured pearls, which means that man instigates the process, but the pearl that eventually is harvested is entirely down to nature. Simply put, nature cannot be rushed or dictated to. We must wait to see what nature wants to provide us with and we refuse to compromise on the quality of our jewellery by using the wrong pearls for a piece. For instance, one of our trademarks is graduated colour designs. In order to achieve a graduation of colour you need the right spread of pearls in the right gradient. To use a pearl in the wrong colour or size would ruin the look of the piece.
Tell us what it is you look for in a perfect pearl…
There are four things we would always look for in particular – the size, the intensity of the natural colour, the smoothness of the surface of the pearl and the lustre. As a general rule, the larger and more lustrous the pearl, the more unusual the colour and the more perfect the quality of the surface, then the greater its value. We pride ourselves on having many of the world’s rarest pearls in our collections, ranging from a 20.6mm South Sea pearl, to Freshwater pearls in an intense and stunning natural purple colour.
What inspires you?
I take inspiration from everything around me but above all, from the individual character of each pearl we work with.
Your designs manage to be luxurious while also being very wearable. How do you manage to achieve this?
I believe that pearls are innately more wearable than some other precious gems. They have a unique quality which allows many pieces to be worn from day to night. Recently, we have created several new designs with flexible and transformable elements, allowing you to wear the piece in a variety of different ways to suit different occasions.
Tell us about the craftsmanship that goes into your pieces.
In each of our pieces the pearl is the star. With all of our designs we seek to highlight and enhance the beauty of the pearls. We never rush the creation of any of our pieces – we work with such an array of unique colours and sizes that often we have to wait until a harvest to acquire the right selection of pearls to complete a piece.
What do you believe is your defining collection?
Quite honestly, each individual piece in our collections is so unique, that I would be hesitant to pick one collection as a defining one.
Where is it that your jewellery is actually produced?
Every pearl in each of our exclusive pieces is hand selected and set by craftsmen in our London workshop.