Moved from the U.S. back to Japan
Goro Takahashi passed away
The Japanese fashion scene mourns the loss of Goro Takahashi, the legendary leather and silver craftsman who brought Native American jewelry to the Japanese accessory world and an icon in that regard. He passed away on November 25 and his funeral was held on December 9, leaving the fate of his business and craft to his children.
His designs, inspired by years of living with the Sioux (who aptly named him "Yellow Eagle"), eventually earned him a loyal following among fans as the Harajuku boom began and well after up until his death. goro's, his atelier and the only place where his goods could be purchased was famed for the long lines it produced and the commitment of those waiting; it only stocked what he had made for the day and prospective buyers, limited to 5 at a time, would have to bank on his daily offerings catching their fancy. And even then, staff would still have a final say on a sale depending on if the piece's personality matched with the buyer.
Takahashi's journey began in high school when he was taught leather carving by U.S. troops in Occupied Japan. After that, he was self-taught until he opened his first shop in Aoyama when he was 27. He then made his way across to the States where he learned silver engraving from Native Americans. As the story goes, it was a Sioux medicine man who gave him the name "Yellow Eagle," perhaps the first Japanese person to receive an Indian name.
Upon returning in 1966, he moved his Aoyama shop over to Harajuku where his Native American-inspired designs established his name in the silver accessories industry. They became popular with many of Japan's stars including rock band SMAP's Kimura Takuya. So renowned is his craftsmanship that his works appreciate in value over time and admirers regard them as art and collectors as an investment. While not many will recognize his name outside those truly involved in the Japanese fashion and street scenes, his legacy and respect is unanimous among his fellow peers across Japan.
Though he will certainly be missed by those who respected both the man and his craft, his words about the enduring nature of his trademark medium couldn't ring truer:
"A silver work could last and existed over thousands years, I am very proud to have my work stay in the world even if I had passed away."
Gently Used Very Old in His Vintage Condition.
You've probably seen one of the elusive pieces before but you never figured out where it was from. A feather crafted like it was blowing in the wind, featuring intricate veins branching out from the rachis, and finished off with a touch gold that has a tiny embossed eagle. You might have seen other feather-shaped jewelery before but nothing quite compares to the detail and shape of this one. That's Goro's.
Originally created by Goro Takahashi until his death on November 25, 2013, those feathers represent not just a piece of jewelry but holds together a culture that's grown for over 35 years. Born in 1939, Takahashi's journey began during his high school years when he was taught how to carve leather by U.S. troops in Occupied Japan. He was gifted leather-carving tools from an American soldier when the occupation ended and developed a fascination for the art, which gave birth to his first store in Aoyama. He then made his way across to the States in an attempt to learn more about the craft but then discovered silver engraving from Native Americans. According to the story, Takahashi became particularly close to the Lakota tribe, and legend has it that he was the first non-Lakota to take part in their "Sun Dance" ritual. He then received the name "Yellow Eagle," which represented both the eagle being a bird of the East, as well as yellow representing East on the medicine wheel. Returning to Tokyo in 1966, he moved his Aoyama shop over to Harajuku a few years later where his Native American-inspired designs quickly established his name in the silver accessories industry. His designs became popular with many Japanese stars including rock band SMAP's Kimura Takuya and has since transcended to other countries where you would see Goro's pieces on the likes of John Mayer, Ed Sheeran and more.
Although Takahashi's passing away in 2013 meant that those silver works (and sometimes gold on rare occasions) were not created by him, the fate of his business and craft were left to his children who have continued his art and legacy. You could argue that with the rise of social media and the internet, Goro's pieces have become even more revered than ever before. Keeping up with the tradition where the only place Goro's can be directly purchased from is at his Harajuku store, you'll find long lines of fans hoping to get a chance of purchasing what it stocked for the day. Customers in the store are limited to five at a time and can only acquire one single item each visit so they would have to hope what they wanted was on offer as all pieces are created the night before. Even then, staff would still have a final say on whether a customer could purchase a piece depending on their personality.
While you may not be able to buy anything you want, if anything at all, it can get confusing on how you can even have a chance of getting into the store. Despite upholding pretty much all of their traditional methods of production and selling, Goro's evolved its purchasing system to a lottery approach. Here's what you should know and what you need to do if you find yourself interested in acquiring a piece. The store is open every day of the week aside from Wednesday and is located at 4 Chome-29-4 Jingumae, 渋谷区 Tokyo 150-0001, Japan.
1. Although the raffle draw opens at 11 a.m., you need to start getting your place in line around 10 a.m. If you get there early enough and there is space on the metal railing in front of the store, you must sit on it to claim your spot. The line for the raffle draw closes at 11 a.m. so you must be there prior to that.
2. Once the draw is open, staff will go through the line to issue a ticket that identifies if you're going in alone or as a group (you'll only be able to draw one ticket if you want to enter collectively as a group).
3. The store staff will then go through the line again to check passports.
4. Once you move up to the front of the store where the raffle is located, you need to press the draw on the iPad which determines the position of entry for you.
5. If you draw a lower number in the range of 1-30, you'll receive a wristband with your number on and you'll have the opportunity to enter the store according to your number.
6. After you receive the band, you will have to wait until 1 p.m. which is when the store opens and the first five customers will be able to enter.
7. Goro's only accepts cash and while prices vary for different pieces, you'll get an idea of the pricing from a number of online videos.
If you're out of luck in all your attempts or want to save time, there is also the option of going to shops that resell Goro's like Rinkan or even Grailed for those that can't make the Tokyo trip. However, it doesn't come with the experience of lining up and taking your chances, which most collectors can vividly remember. Moreover, you will be paying a heavy premium of around double for some of the more "regular" pieces or even more for the rare items such as the eagles.
To get a better idea of why Goro's has developed such an aura around it, we reached out to Marcus Troy and Ian Anton from Richardson on why they gravitated towards the jewelry, as well as to hear some of their experiences in acquiring pieces.
This is an eight-year-old story of how I discovered the legend of Goro's. In many ways, Goro's pieces was omnipresent around me because I always had a few friends around me that collected his jewelry, but I never paid it no mind. One of my friends, Vincent Tsang, wore it around his index finger, and I only noticed it after I had invited him to New York City to work on a Nike project with me. Whenever I find myself in the city, I always try to connect with my friends and acquaintances. At the time, my friend, Ariel, was the concierge of the Tribeca Grand hotel and I had introduced him to Vincent. As they reached out to shake hands, Ariel immediately took notice of his ring and the name "Goros" came out of his mouth. He then proceeded to open up his shirt as if he was Superman and pulled out a silver feather from underneath. The two spent the rest of the evening sharing their stories of how they obtained their Goro's. I, of course, had no idea what was going on and sat there confused but my curiosity to learn more about the jewelry emerged.