“I want to bring jewelry with ‘strength’ that encourages wearers.” Rie Harui, the founder and designer of the Japanese jewelry brand “RIEFE JEWELLERY,” talks about her own creations. She worked on the showpieces for the ”Yohji Yamamoto” Fall-Winter 2021/22 collection, launched in March. At the same time, the launch of the new women’s jewelry line “Yohji Yamamoto by RIEFE” was announced. Harui says, “What the two different brands have in common is that they give the wearer strength.”
When she lived in Los Angeles, she met Guillaume Pajolec, a former “Chrome Hearts,” which brought her to the jewelry world. She learned the basics of jewelry making from him and qualifying as a jewelry appraiser at the American Jewelry Society. Then, she moved to Paris and studied jewelry design at the vocational school BJOP. After returning to Japan, she was involved in the production of accessories for “Y-3” and “Yohji Yamamoto” as a freelance designer, and in 2018 her own jewelry brand “RIEFE JEWELLERY” was established. The edgy jewelry made of “RIEFE JEWELLERY” colored stones and 10-karat gold creates a strong female image that is rare for a domestic brand in Japan.
Harui does everything from buying stones to designing, and at the factory, she talks directly with artisans to produce without compromise. On the other hand, in the showpiece unveiled as the new jewelry line “Yohji Yamamoto by RIEFE,” the world view of “Yohji Yamamoto” is expressed with a body chain belt, metal mask, and chain necklace unified in black instead of colored stones. The line is scheduled to be rolled out after July. I asked about the background of the creation and jewelry production of the two brands before the full-scale launch.
To put together ideas that come to mind in daily life with customer requests.
ーーWhat made you launch “RIEFE JEWELLERY”?
Rie Harui: The reason was simply that I couldn’t find the jewelry I wanted to wear among domestic brands. I thought that delicate jewelry with an image of beauty and cuteness would not suit me, and I wanted jewelry that suits wrinkled skin with experience and age. When I lived in the United States and France, it was cool to see older women to wear jewelry with a strong presence, and just as men buy luxury watches as a reward for themselves. I thought it would be okay to buy jewelry for myself. As women become more active in society, I want to make jewelry given to them as women work hard and that inspires the wearer’s feelings. Rather than be complimented by others, I want to bring works with true strength that allow each customer to fill their hearts and be complacent.
ーーDo you feel that your wish has reached your customers three years after the launch?
Harui: When I spoke directly to customers in a pop-up, they said they wanted jewelry with a unique design that was different from the others on milestones and anniversaries, and some of them bought it for themselves saying, “I thought I could buy it because I worked hard this year.” Recently, more and more male customers and couples buy as gifts, but many women wear them as jewelry for themselves, so I feel that their feelings resonate with my wish.
ーーHow do you design and produce “RIEFE JEWELLERY”?
Harui: Basically, the core design is what I want to wear for a long time, which hasn’t changed since the launch. I keep learning what the customer and I are seeking in the present moment. In the past, customers did not respond at all to works that I thought would sell well, looking at the trends of the times. That told me “RIEFE JEWELLERY” customers are not expecting conscious of trends. Many designers get inspiration from something, but in my case, I don’t have a particular source of inspiration and rarely incorporate motifs (already in shape) into my designs. I combine several ideas that happen to come up in my everyday life with customers’ needs and collage them in my head to create designs. When I actually start writing the design, I spend time making it while scraping and adding decorations.
Inspired by Wim Wenders “Notebook on Cities and Clothes” and “Wings of Desire”
ーーHow do you communicate with your customers?
Harui: At pop-ups, I try to stand at the store as much as possible to serve customers. Due to the pandemic, it didn’t allow me to visit local boutiques, so I made the opportunity to talk directly to a customer who wanted a size consultation or custom by video call. Some customers order from the official e-commerce, I had a video call if requested after purchase. There are various requests such as changing colored stones, responding to metal allergies, adjusting the size, etc., so I can meet each customer’s needs by making use of my strength of having knowledge of stones and assessing the value of the jewelry. I wanted to make this direct communication from the beginning. Taking the opportunity by the pandemic, I was able to build a closer relationship and will continue to do so.
ーーHow come you start “Yohji Yamamoto by RIEFE” while your brand is growing steadily?
Harui: I have involved in “Yohji Yamamoto” the proposal of showpieces ten years ago and also “Y-3” for about four seasons as a freelance designer, and recently I have been in contact with them for the first time in a while. “Yohji Yamamoto” has already been established as a brand, and especially the clothing line is satisfying customers with stable creation. Still, I proposed to strengthen the jewelry and accessories line to aim for further heights. That was the starting point. One of the strengths of “RIEFE JEWELLERY” is to directly convey the request to artisans at the factory and respond flexibly to the design and delivery time. I was hoping that I could be involved in ”Yohji Yamamoto” again as a jewelry designer, so fulfilling my wish was the most significant opportunity to grow myself under pressure in a good way.
ーーHow did you work on producing the showpiece that was released in the show video in March?
Harui: It was a battle against time as the deadline for the collection was tight. I didn’t know the contents of the collection in particular, but I expanded the image and referred to the advice from the great “Yohji Yamamoto” design team. I watched many past collections and Yamamoto’s past interview videos to gain a deeper understanding of the brand and started designing after thinking about what was required. Among them, the creation in “Yohji Yamamoto by RIEFE” expanded the image from Wim Wenders’s “Notebook on Cities and Clothes” and his masterpiece “Wings of Desire.” My vision is based on the monochrome world. The challenge of “Yohji Yamamoto by RIEFE” is to unify it with lute coating and express it in molding. It was a design that I wanted to work on, unlike “RIEFE JEWELLERY,” based on the expression in colored stones.
ーーHow is the creation process of “Yohji Yamamoto by RIEFE” different from “RIEFE JEWELLERY” ?
Harui: Since I aim for jewelry that makes clothes look good, it is different from “RIEFE JEWELLERY.” However, the basis of creation is still jewelry that I want to wear for a long time. Even though the two brands’ designs and approaches are different, I want to bring jewelry that gives the wearer “strength” confidently.