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May 15, 2024

An Exploration in Retail: Shihara

W
hile relatively new to the United States’ jewelry scene, in Japan, Shihara is a well-known entity. After completing his studies in jewelry design in 2008, the brand’s founder, Yuta Ishihara, began making his own creations before opening his flagship boutique in the Harajuku area of Tokyo in 2014. In 2022, they expanded and relocated the flagship to Aoyama, renaming it Shihara Tokyo and in 2023, they renovated and reopened the original Shihara Lab space as a multi-brand jewelry store. The brand currently operates four retail stores: Shihara Tokyo, Shihara Dover Street Market Ginza, Shihara Osaka, and Shihara Lab.

Yuta’s philosophical approach to the design process is holistic and focuses on a client’s entire experience of all touch points of their brand. In opening their doors to showcase the work of other designers, the brand is mindful of how their jewelry is displayed and also how it complements the overall look and feel of the retail space.

In opening their doors to showcase the work of other designers, the brand is mindful of how their jewelry is displayed and also how it complements the overall look and feel of the retail space.

Image courtesy of Shihara

Yuta’s philosophical approach to the design process is holistic and focuses on a client’s entire experience of all touch points of their brand. In opening their doors to showcase the work of other designers, the brand is mindful of how their jewelry is displayed and also how it complements the overall look and feel of the retail space.

Image courtesy of Shihara

COUTURE: When did you open your retail business? 

Yuta Ishihara: The fine jewelry brand Shihara launched in 2010 and in 2014 we opened our first flagship store, Shihara Lab. Yutai was launched in 2021. 

Image courtesy of Shihara

COUTURE: What was the impetus for opening a retail store? Were you already doing wholesale at the time or did the retail come first?: 

YI: I have been selling Shihara and Yutai in the wholesale market since the brands were first established. Shihara was launched in 2010 and Yutai was launched in 2021. 

Image courtesy of Shihara

COUTURE: Can you tell us a little more about your flagship store, Shihara Lab?  

YI: The Shihara Lab store is nestled in a quiet residential area in the backstreets of Harajuku, Tokyo. The recently renovated second floor functions as a private lounge, furnished with sofas and low tables, creating a cozy environment where customers can comfortably engage with the jewelry. 

Image courtesy of Shihara

COUTURE: You carry brands other than your own; what was the motivation for expanding beyond your own DNA within your store? 

YI: The global jewelry market is filled with creative designers whose work is rarely seen in Japan. I was motivated to start the multi-brand store to provide a platform for independent designers and help elevate the overall market. 

Image courtesy of Shihara

COUTURE: How do you select brands for your store?  

YI: As the designer for both Shihara and Yutai, I appreciate other jewelry designers who bring a strong vision and unique concept to their designs. I carefully curate designers for the store who offer distinct elements from each other and from my own designs, ensuring they also demonstrate skillful craftsmanship and expressive designs. 

Image courtesy of Shihara

COUTURE: Do you give designers any kind of special considerations that don’t normally exist within the vendor/merchant paradigm?  

YI: Since I own a business of my own with both direct to consumer and wholesale, I make an effort to engage in practices that I would appreciate as a brand owner. This includes thoughtful consideration of transaction terms and the way in which designers and their jewelry are presented. 

Image courtesy of Shihara

COUTURE: Does having a retail store influence your creative process in any way? 

YI: Having a retail store allows me to observe firsthand how customers interact with our jewelry compared to other brands, what they are drawn to, and the styles they prefer. The retail environment also provides a space to experiment with product displays and how they complement each other. 

 

Image courtesy of Shihara

COUTURE: What advantages to you feel having a retail store gives you in comparison to brands that do wholesale exclusively?  

YI: Owning retail stores provides the unique advantage of directly controlling the brand experience. I can present our jewelry in the exact environment we envision, which helps build a stronger connection with our customers.  

Image courtesy of Shihara

COUTURE: What was the biggest lesson you learned when you opened your store? You know, the thing you didn’t know you didn’t know!  

YI: The most significant lesson was the importance of location and how it aligns with brand identity. Shihara Lab, located in a quiet residential area of Harajuku, offers a unique, intimate setting that enhances our customers’ shopping experience, though it requires more marketing effort due to limited foot traffic. 

Image courtesy of Shihara

COUTURE: What is the most rewarding part of having a retail space?: 

YI: It is gratifying to see customers enjoy the environment we’ve created, engage with our unique curation of jewelry up close, and leave with pieces that truly resonate with them. 

COUTURE: What is the biggest challenge in running a retail space?: 

YI: The biggest challenge is managing the operational complexities, such as staffing, training, inventory management, and maintaining high standards of customer service and store aesthetics.   

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