2nd November 2021

Maison Miru – Trisha Okubo

Venetia Tyler talks to the founder of the contemporary modern jewellery brand, Trisha Okubo

Trisha Okubo was right on time with the ear curation trend which blew up in the early 2010s.  The likes of big brands such as Maria Tash and smaller, boutique brands like Maison Miru paved the way for creative, elegant bespoke jewellery through the use of subtle, feminine designs.  As the founder of the brand, Okubo has an eclectic background that includes Decision Engineering and Fashion Merchandising; with all of these stops on her journey contributing to the unique identity of her brand.  Here, she talks to us about the exciting evolution Maison Miru has embarked on, and how the brand encourages the co-creation of unique designs, with the hope of spreading love and kindness through beautiful pieces.

Your educational background is quite unusual for your field – with a Management Science and Engineering master’s degree as well fashion and jewellery design qualifications.   What value do these experiences bring to your role now?

Systems and modularity are at the core of what I do.  As an engineer, I love efficient solutions – there’s just something beautiful about finding the simplest possible solution to a design challenge – but I also don’t want to forget the poetry.  Sometimes it’s the beauty of serendipity and imperfection that makes an object sing.  

With engineering, I took some material science classes, but not nearly enough to know about what I do now.  I’m not one to shy away from technical innovation – it’s amazing what you learn on YouTube once you graduate from university, and I have not stopped learning since!  Even though I didn’t have all of the background knowledge, it didn’t stop me from self-sufficient learning and picking it up.  When I became stuck on information and ‘technical jargon,’ I kept going and learning.  I probably attribute this mostly to my engineering degree and how it trained me to always stay inquisitive and to always question things.  It made me less hesitant to poke at the boundaries of knowledge and of what materials would work best.

Has being a jewellery designer always been an ambition of yours?

Design has always been close to my heart.  My love of fashion originated with my grandmother, who was a gifted seamstress.  Among the many things she and my mother taught me was that if you don’t see the thing you want out there in the world, you should go make it yourself.  I didn’t know starting out that I’d end up as a jewellery designer but, in retrospect, it all makes sense.  I’m equally fascinated by sculpture and story, and jewellery is wearable sculpture that holds a story.

In your adolescence you did explore being a fashion designer and designed your own clothing.  Is this something you still pursue or would like to pursue at a more serious level?

I’m struggling to find the spare time to continue on with designing my own clothing and accessories.  I have a one-year-old baby who is lovely, but since she was born I’ve had less studio time to experiment and play.  I’d love to bring the same systems concept to life with both small accessories and clothing.  I have the concepts all sketched out in my notebook, and I’m trying to find the time to prototype them.

Maison Miru is marketed as ‘jewellery designed for dreamers, thinkers and makers.’ ‘Can you explain why this is so important to the brand?

Maison Miru is a unisex system of interchangeable, modular pieces that you can compose and arrange in infinite beautiful combinations.  My process is all about co-creation.  I think of it almost like Lego: individual pieces that you can combine into your own piece of art.  Like music: a set of simple notes you can composeinto an infinite number of beautiful combinations that speak to you. Thats what we really try to do use a foundation of jewellery pieces to build something unique and beautiful.

I’m interested in building a system of foundational pieces – the perfect incarnation of each item.  My goal is to inspire a sense of play – and to make looking great effortless so you’re free to dream, think and make.

Would you say Maison Miru is designed to inspire customers to be creative and come up with their own designs as a way of self-expression, rather than offer prescriptive looks?

Yes, that’s exactly what we are trying to do. We want to offer room for creative expression but also offer advice.  My team love to offer styling help: customers will take a picture of their ear and we will help them create a unique look.

There seems to be an ongoing conversation between the consumer and the brand – a co-creation of ideas and looks where each has equal weight in creating something beautiful.  Tell us bit more about this.

Our creative circle – which spans the globe – never ceases to inspire me with how they compose and arrange their Maison Miru pieces to make truly signature looks.  I’m working on a series of kits right now to make it easier to start your ‘ear party,’ and these kits will be based upon the most popular styles that our creative community has curated.  Our circle is located all ove rand are super helpful.  We collaborate with them by sending out new designs to see what they think.  I find this really important for the development of Maison Miru.

We also have a very vocal customer community who tell us what they are looking for. Thanks to their feedback, we launched our signature flat back earrings for lobe piercings, which is now one of our bestselling lines.  Also, our ear party service on our website gives customers styling advice to help them build their own unique look.  Before, I didn’t even know what flat back earrings were!  So, we really value our customers in terms of co-creating.  

Maison Miru has a wide price range for its products, which is rare in the jewellery market.  How important was this when you set up the brand?

I set up a fashion blog before Maison Miru.  A big influence on this was Lucky magazine, which showed different fashion pieces, offered varied price points and showed where you could get them from.  I set up an online version of this with my blog.  I’d offer a student budget, a mid-range budget and also a higher-end budget if you wanted to splurge a bit and get the designer versions.

The democratization of design has always been near and dear to my heart.  My goal is to make good design accessible to all, without regard to age, income, gender or size.   We try to provide good options at every price point.

With all the finishes that jewellery can come in, what were your considerations behind choosing the finishes that were high quality but accessible for the Maison Miru customer?

Of course, you have the high-end ear brands like Maria Tash which offers solid gold that is very beautiful, but also very expensive.  The less expensive materials are often not great for sensitive skins so we choose more for better quality.  We try to do everything in either solid gold or implant grade titanium, which has many great functional qualities. You also won’t be emptying your entire wallet for this material!

Sustainability is a big topic of conversation within the fashion and accessories market. Was this something you also thought about when setting up Maison Miru?

We use lots of recycled materials and we are always trying to do more – like adding to our necklace and bracelet line with more styles in our recycled stainless steel.  We’re interested in reuse – from a materials perspective, but also in creating styles that can be remixed and reimagined so they can be worn multiple ways.  

We’re also in the midst of a packaging redesign to include all recycled and recyclable materials to make our ecological footprint as small as possible.  QR codes is something we’re doing for our new packaging – you scan the code and all of the information comes up on your phone rather than on a printed receipt.

I grew up in California and always remember how everyone was very vigilant about climate change, protecting the environment and so on.  I always remember the protection of our environment being a big priority in my neighbourhood, and I remember that being instilled in me – like always having the attitude of leaving the world a bit better than how you found it.

Maison Miru has an inspiring philosophy behind it – ‘jewellery is love made visible.’  What made you want this to be at the core of your brand’s identity?

What I love most about jewellery is that it’s an object that’s more than the sum of its parts.  My most treasured pieces are filled with love, as they remind me of the people and experiences that are closest to my heart.  When I look at the pieces that mean the most to me; when I look at my jewellery that was given to me as a gift, I see the love that I feel for that person, or the emotion that they made me feel, or a memory with them that I cherish.  That’s why I feel jewellery is often love made visible.

Finally, tell us a little more about the spiritual essence of the brand represented by offerings like your Secrets & Stories’ collection.

The nature of life – and how we as individuals fit into this vast and beautiful universe – continues to fascinate me.  Whether or not there is a higher power, the ideas behind Secrets & Stories – hope, love, protection and inspiration – are meaningful as they connect to our most fundamental human desires.  I’m drawn to certain ideas, including the idea that there are things which are universal.  Whether or not a higher force exists, we love, hope, protect, dream and so on – these are all things that are fundamentally true and that are very real to us.

Photography | Annabel Elston

For more information on Maison Miru click here.

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