Humour and artful design define the funky jewelry designed by the über-cool Japanese duo behind the e.m. label.
Tokyo-based design duo Eijiro Nakatani and Masayoshi Tobita are the creative minds behind boldly innovative jewelry brand, e.m. Fun and a liberal dose of the unexpected define their pieces, among which are signature rings with outrageous quirks such as a tiny character branding a Kalashnikov trained on a precious stone; bats and skulls; and miniature mushrooms. These eccentric features manage to sit perfectly comfortably alongside high-luxe materials of the likes of water pearls, coral, precious stones and silver.
Nakatani and Tobita, who once played for the same soccer team at high school in Osaka, launched their brand in 1996. They don’t bother with formal marketing concepts, preferring to just make what they like – artful pieces that “bring happiness to people, without any restriction”. The result is a collection of modern, effortlessly cool designs that meld maverick eclecticism with contemporary art. It has global appeal demonstrated by its presence in hip cult stores such as Colette in Paris; its prestigious collaborations with several renowned brands, including Commes des Garçons; and exhibitions in New York. Close friends as well as business partners, Nakatani and Tobita have developed an enviable harmony in their creative alchemy. They try not to determine a theme in advance: “We each search for a quiet place where we can’t be disturbed, and we individually draw rough sketches. Then we show them to each other, stealing glances to see how the other is responding!” Later, they show their sketches and listen to what the other has to say about them.
Their current designs are asymmetric, offbeat, glittering eye-candy, but early pieces had a less refined edge, often rugged and mannish, some even brain-shaped, which involved melting materials into a sticky mass. “We don’t like to use the same motifs. Our policy is to create things more freely. Along the way, we think we could also deepen our personalities, as well – it’s a tough job, though!”
SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS have been pivotal to e.m. since 2002. “We decorated a room with crystal at the Swarovski Elements Launch Exhibition 2002, then a few years back we began using the crystals to make jewelry.” In 2005, the duo released the colorful ‘Piggy’ series like pink, white and black, which incorporated SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS. They were also added to iPhone case designs to give high-end glitter, plus their recent skeleton motif, which has SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS twinkling at the eyes, nose and mouth.
“Everybody loves sparkling things, and SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS enable us to create bold, challenging designs without worrying about size and volume; plus they’re brilliantly versatile, as they can be used with so many other materials. Mostly we stick to monotone combinations such as white and black or silver and crystal, because vivid colors aren’t to everyone’s taste and so can be quite limiting.”
Nakatani and Tobita have ambitious plans to expand and collaborate: “We want to widen our range and present a surprising new phase, so we’ve decided to hold a tradeshow featuring other brands, too, for maximum impact.” Somehow, it feels like their winning combination of integrity and free spirit will ensure they keep evolving on every front, just as they’ve been doing for the last 16 years.