Intrepid, interested, independent, and a lover of pearls, Maiko Makito is a woman who belies the accepted norms of her Japanese heritage. The heiress of her family’s Ise Shima, Japan-based pearl jewellery empire, Makito could have had a comfortable and fulfilling career in her own country.
That, however, was not what she wanted. After taking over the 36 year old company from her father in 2016, Makito expanded the family firm into Singapore and the rest of Asia.
“Prior to Pearl Falco, I was fortunate to be afforded opportunities to travel and learn about cultural amalgamation from those travels. Being self-reliant, I had backpacked across different territories since I was a student and learnt so much about communities and culture that I would’ve never been able to,” Makito explains.
“I grew up in a time when technology was not as prevalent as it is today, I had the fortune of being able to feel alive in that moment without having to document it for social media. It was me, the sky and the people beneath the sky.”
While trekking through Eurasia, Makito was lured into business via an opportunity with NEC working in developing countries. She was stationed in Singapore, and the rest, as they say, is history.
“It was fate that stationed me in the Asian metropolitan hub of culture, Singapore, and there was no turning back after. I resigned from my previous job in 2016 while in Singapore and took over my family business while tending to my daughter and building the fundamentals of my new home in Singapore,” says Makito.
“Living in a metropolitan city like Singapore that celebrates unity and culture, one cannot help but grow an attachment to it. Since I was a student and globetrotting, I have loved Asia and Singapore is just in the middle of Asia.”Maiko Makito
In 2019, Makito expanded the company to Singapore, opening the only Ise Shima pearl gallery in the country, and began educating Singaporeans on the mystical qualities of unique Akoya pearls. On top of these major moves, Makito has also created an annual Pearl Jewellery competition, The Grand Prix of Akoya Pearl Jewellery Ise Shima.
“This is an annual affair with hopes to raise awareness of the importance and versatility of Akoya pearls by focusing on themes that bind,” Makito explains. “In Singapore, I have also organised Pearl Appreciation Workshops in jewellery schools like NAFA, Raffles Design and JDMIS and also hosted private seminars both online and in person.”
Linking back to her humanitarian background, Makito has also created a charity programme that helps underserved children get access to education: “I want Pearl Falco to transcend the horizons to assist me to fulfill my involvement with the community through the ‘Pearl of Hope’ Educational Fund so that I can reach more underserved children and allow them to believe that their dreams can come true also.”
While education and charity are noble goals both personal and business, Makito is also a jewellery designer. Although she has a background in more traditional pearl jewellery, Makito is focused on combining history with modern techniques and design concepts.
“Pearls are not as widely renowned as other gemstones like diamonds so there is a relatively smaller number of people who appreciate pearls. There is always a story associated with every piece of jewellery as they often constitute heirlooms and the thought that we contribute to keeping some traditions alive is very exciting,” explains Makito.
“I am motivated by my passion for my culture and the beauty of pearls that I wish to share with the world so I find inspiration in many things embedded in nature. Nature is classic and always provides comfort and inspiration so my pieces automatically have a modern twist on a relevant historical concept.
Many people can associate with this as nature is everlasting and evergreen. I always believe that people and their connections create happiness and pearls just help enhance the beauty in people in a very natural and timeless manner and it thrills me that I could be a bridge to facilitate these connections and that is reflected in the jewellery by Pearl Falco.”
The designs Makito describes are strongly influenced by flowers, particularly flowers from Asia.
“Flora has always been central to my collections. Just recently, my Spring/Summer 2021 Collection was inspired by the promise of rejuvenation and moving further away from convention. Labelled ‘Bloom From Within’, the collection is the perfect commemoration of summer,” says Makito.
“As a reminder of the intensity and beauty of a flower field, these pieces weave together the beauty of pearls and florals to radiate beauty and warmth. Embodying perfection with subtlety, the singular floral element with pearls act as a reminder that growth is just around the corner while remaining anchored to my classic roots.
“Flowers are very inspiring and I like to use Asian flowers in my pieces as they remind me of the determination with which my team started our journey in Singapore,” Makito explains.