If you haven’t heard of luxury jewelry designer Joji Kojima before, it’s possible you may have seen some of his work without necessarily knowing it. Kojima, who is revolutionizing his field with expressionist jewelry that both amazes and inspires, is gaining attention for his work that seems to blend macabre qualities with fetishism and glamour. Though his self-titled brand was only established two years ago, Joji Kojima is already becoming a household name in the luxury jewelry world and experiencing ample success along the way.
California-born Kojima was raised in Japan but had the opportunity to travel to Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries as a boy due to his father’s business, which, as he told me, enabled him “to see diverse cultures both in the East and West, in poor and rich countries.” Not surprisingly, the artist attributes the creative works that he produces today to his personal history and past adventures. “I do not intentionally take advantage of these experiences for my works,” he said, “but what I have encountered must have influenced what I create today.”
Though Kojima received formal design training from Tokyo’s Tama Art University, his natural talent was visible from an early age. “Since I was young, I liked to draw illustrations and animations, and to make things with leather. What attracted me most happened to be jewelry,” he said, noting that he embarked on this craft at just 15 years old. With his passion for jewelry already present, Kojima studied graphic design while at university specifically to supplement his jewelry design process. “I believed it was the field in which I could study design in the most diverse way,” he said, as it allowed him to gain knowledge in advertising design, photography, typography, and imaging, which has clearly added a unique element to his jewelry that limiting himself to a major in metal craft or fashion could not have done.
It’s no surprise that the designer’s pieces take on shapes and forms that hardly resemble jewelry at all, reminding us more of sculptures or decorative ornaments. One look at the skull mask with a working hinged jaw piece or the diamond-studded knuckle duster would reveal that. But the designer is eager to express to me the essence of his work: with his main motivation being decoration, Kojima tells me his pieces “are definitely jewelry and not art. As long as they are jewelry, they are part of fashion, something that can be worn… This is the exciting part of my work which sculpture cannot give me.”
A closer look at the impeccable craftsmanship of the pieces reveals Kojima’s passion for decoration. “I always consider what nobody else but I can create, and intend to produce what people have never seen before,” he told me. This is achieved through his use of unconventional materials like metal, glass, bones, and even feathers in a design process that takes a total of six months to complete. Releasing two collections per year, the designer’s visions come to fruition over two months of crafting that takes place after spending up to three months pondering his abstract themes and concepts.
His past collections include such themes as “The Mellow,” Midnight Dance,” and “Hotel Gluttony” — ideas that even Kojima himself admit are dark, though they’ve rendered him an equally enthusiastic fan base. Unsurprisingly, even Lady Gaga, who is notorious for her bizarre— but intriguing— fashion sense, is a loyal supporter of the up-and-coming designer. The pop star gained an affinity with Kojima after wearing a black umbrella headpiece by Yoshiko Creation Paris when he was still working there. She then went on to help catapult Kojima’s presence in the fashion world when she wore his chain mail mask on the cover of her “Fame Monster” album. With dark themes largely driving Kojima’s collections, the two artists share such a similar fashion sense that you’d swear that Gaga was Kojima’s muse, yet the designer states that while he has a certain form of beauty that he tries to attain, there is no specific person in mind behind his pieces.
His latest collection, titled “Utopia,” is a group of sculptural rings in animal shapes that are made from leather, crystals, gold, metal and feathers. The fantastical “Utopia” of animals and the beauty of their existence are epitomized in this line, with traces of elephant, flamingo, horse and lizard becoming wearable art for this season. The details of his next venture, which will be released in October, remain a mystery, but Kojima promises that the collection will “be an extremely satisfactory one.”
By Nicolle Keogh