Yoko London is one of the most famous brands specialising in pearl jewellery. In an exclusive email interview, Michael Hakimian its CEO, speaks about the company’s predilection for pearls, its foray into e-commerce and sustained initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint.
Yoko London’s love affair with lustrous pearls is well-known and so are their creations that are dominated with beauteous and silken wonders of nature. The jewellery brand that works with more than 10 pearl farms across the globe specialises in handpicking the perfect pearl for its prêt and opulent or classic creations that amplify the beauty of each gem.
Michael Hakimian, CEO of Yoko London, deep-dives into the subject that is close to his heart.
Yoko London was founded 48 years ago, and your Knightsbridge boutique in London opened around 10 years ago … How has the journey been?
Yoko London is a third-generation family-run brand, founded in London in 1973 by the Hakimian family. Since the brand’s inception, the focus has been pearls, initially starting out as a wholesale pearl company that evolved into the brand that you see today.
Our family has lived and breathed pearls for three generations and we are proud to be one of the world’s foremost pearl jewellery brands. When creating a piece of Yoko London jewellery, each pearl is expertly matched and set in our London workshop. We have hundreds of unique designs and we also work on bespoke commissions for customers.
What is the USP of your brand?
With our main workshop being based in our London head office, the attention to detail and service that we are able to offer is unrivalled. We offer every product and service relating to pearl jewellery, making us the destination for all things pearl. As for our jewellery collections, we hold a vast inventory of loose pearls and strands allowing us to be endlessly creative with our pearl jewellery designs.
Which are your main export markets?
Our boutique is based in one of London’s most luxurious shopping areas, Knightsbridge, while our workshop is in the heart of London’s famous jewellery district. We export all over the world, but our main international markets are the Middle East, Asia and the USA.
Our Yoko London jewellery meets a demand for unique, but luxurious pearl jewellery. The brand was met with a positive reception from the outset, with many of the world’s most famous women opting to wear Yoko London jewellery, including Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, and Lady Gaga to name a few.
Tell us more about the types of pearls you source for your high-end, couture, and daily wear collections.
As a pearl specialist, we incorporate many different varieties of pearls within our collections. Whatever type of pearl we use, we are committed to only using the highest quality, with beautiful surfaces and spectacular lustre.
Our best-selling collections, Trend and Sleek, feature top quality Akoya and Freshwater pearls, in modern designs with diamonds. We selected these pearls for the collections because their small sizes make them more comfortable to wear every day than, for example, larger South Sea pearls, whilst still offering an elegant and refined look.
Our Classic Collection offers timeless jewellery including pearl strands, studs and simple bracelets, available in many types of pearls and sizes.
At the top end of our collections, you will find our magnificent High Jewellery Collection, which are crafted using our largest, rarest and finest pearls. The pieces in this collection mainly use white and golden Australian South Sea pearls and Tahitian pearls alongside high quality diamonds.
What is the price range of the pieces you sell?
We cater to every price point starting from £100 for a classic Freshwater pearl stud. We have many beautiful, contemporary pearl and diamond pieces which retail for under £1,500. At the top of our range, our High Jewellery suites naturally come with a very high price point. These suites often use some of the world’s rarest pearls in exceptionally large sizes and highly unusual natural colours.
How has Yoko London fared during these incredibly peculiar times? How did you stay connected to your loyal clients?
We are incredibly fortunate to have fared well over this period. Before the pandemic began, we had already made significant investments in our digital capabilities. We have an in-house full-time photographer, videographer and graphic designer which helps us to produce exceptional marketing content for the brand and our products.
This capability allowed us to support our retail partners during this difficult time, with beautiful content for their websites and social media, which allowed them, in turn, to sell our products online to their own customers.
When the pandemic hit, we were already in the process of building a brand-new e-commerce site for Yoko London which was eventually launched in August 2020. We are delighted with the performance of our e-commerce site. We ship our products globally and it has opened opportunities for us to sell our collections to pearl lovers all over the world. We offer free shipping and returns for many of our orders which provides peace of mind to our customers.
Is online becoming more important than in-store retail?
In some ways yes, I think it is becoming more important. But having said that, I believe in-store retail still plays an important part in providing a real-world experience of a brand and its products. I think online and in-person selling need to work in conjunction with each other.
Our website and social media accounts allow us to bring our jewellery to audiences all over the world, which we would struggle to reach through in-store retail presence alone. We often find online is the first touchpoint a customer has with our brand. This first impression is crucial as it dictates whether the customer then wants to continue to engage with us. Often, we find customers continually revert to our social media pages and website to research our products before eventually either buying online, or meeting us in person if they prefer to see and feel the pieces before buying.
Our retail store is an extension of our online channels and vice versa, so they need to work in harmony together.
What types of jewellery are outperforming in sales? Any particular types of pearls that are trending these days?
Without a doubt our everyday diamond and pearl designs which form part of our Trend and Sleek Collections are outperforming in sales in every single market.
How are Yoko London jewellery designs changing in the current period?
During the pandemic our focus has shifted to contemporary, everyday pieces of jewellery with small Akoya and Freshwater pearls and diamonds. We are finding more and more our clients want easy to wear jewellery that is comfortable to wear from day to night, whilst still looking luxurious and sophisticated.
We would like to know a little about your CSR activities vis-a-vis the pearl farming/ecology sustenance measures.
Sustainability has been a key focus for us in 2021. In April 2021, we made the commitment to guarantee that over 50% of the gold used in our future jewellery production will be recycled and 100% of our unused gold will be recycled.
We source our precious metals from responsible suppliers who have been audited by organisations such as the Responsible Mining Initiative and London Bullion Market Association. This commitment will not only minimise waste, but will also reduce our CO2 emissions. We are working hard to increase this percentage.
Additionally, all our pearls are graded, matched and mounted by hand in our London headquarters. This allows us to reduce our carbon footprint and maintain total control over this crucial part of our manufacturing process.
We recognise that sustainability is a journey and we are constantly examining our practices to identify areas we can improve. (Visit: www.yokolondon.com)