Childhood memories of growing up in Japan, prior training and careers as a fashion designer in her native country and as a dancer in New York all provide Yasuko Azuma with inspiration for her elegantly feminine and intricately detailed 18k gold precious jewelry collection.
Yasuko Azuma launched her first full scale collection in 2003, under her own name, after mastering the craft of delicate hand piercing and a hand finished “diamond dust” texture. Both techniques continue to be part of her signature style and have garnered the attention of leading retailers, press and consumers.
Her love of fabrics, particularly vintage Kimonos patterns, her affinity for the old world charm of fans and Ranma (the pierced work on sliding doors in old homes in Japan) and the refined movement she strived for during her years as a dancer all inform her collections. These influences show up in the motifs and graceful lines of Yasuko’s designs from the dainty cut outs that adorn the sides of a ring shank to the leaves and vines and flowers that bloom on a medallion or flow from earrings.
Born in Sapporo Japan, Yasuko’s flair for the creative was already being realized at age six. She began conceptualizing ideas for her own clothes. “My mother was a fashion and handbag designer and I watched her and began drawing really rough sketches or describing dresses that I would want to wear, which she would then make for me.” Yasuko’s childhood passion led her follow in her mother’s footsteps and to study fashion design in college. After graduation, she worked as a designer for a large apparel company. “It was a wonderful learning experience but after five years, I grew restless following trends and working within the constraints of a corporate company’s vision. I had all of this energy and I wanted to explore my own outlets of creative expression.”
In 1994, Yasuko moved to New York to pursue her dreams and began studying jewelry fabrication and design at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
While still attending school, Yasuko’s mother asked her to create a new setting for a family heirloom, a fire opal ring, which had a broken shank. The precision and beauty of the piercing style of tiny flowers and leaves around the bezel and on the shank gave the gemstone a completely original look. It also gave Yasuko the impetus to continue to develop her hallmark style and to literally carve out her unique identity in the luxury jewelry market.
“I’m very nostalgic about my childhood, growing up in Japan and playing in my grandmother’s garden,” explains Yasuko. “I can recreate in my mind, the botanicals, the rocks, the hanging lanterns and the way in which the branches seemed to billow and flow.” Today Yasuko interprets these images into highly wearable and ultimately pretty pieces of jewelry. “I prefer not to follow trends but to create styles that are enduring, versatile and collectible. I also believe in jewelry that is more subdued with unexpected surprises and details rather than bold diamond statement looks.” Yasuko’s collection focuses on earthly delights, each of which are hand carved and hand finished with her pierced work. The changing of seasons is also a driving force in her collection. She describes her “diamond dust” texture as “trying to capture the moment on an icy cold day in winter when the motion in the air sparkles when it freezes.” Yasuko replicates this feeling with light hammering which creates a glimmer of matte and shine. The essence of her designs shows through in their subtly. The Yasuko Azuma collection attracts a broad range of women without ever being overly designed. “The pieces never outshine my customers but rather enhance their diverse and inherent beauty.”