With hair loosely tucked behind her ears and just a whisper of makeup on her face, Maiko Makito looks every bit the assured woman in charge. Japanese pearl jewellery company Pearl Falco’s second-generation co-owner admits being a casual dresser, preferring comfort and simple elegance to outlandish fashions. Even so, her quiet style speaks volumes.

The forest-green blouse draped comfortably on her slender frame is a lovely contrast to her discreet pearl pendant. Its cut is simple yet the alluring sheen of the fabric – discernible through the Zoom window – reflects the lustre of the Akoya pearl from the waters of Ise-Shima, Japan. Despite being an outfit for an online meeting, Makito’s ensemble is all feminine grace and the quiet confidence of a woman on a mission to bring her family’s 36-year-old business to the world.

The 44-year-old eschews fast fashion for pieces that last through different stages of life: backpacking across continents during her varsity days, working in Singapore as an executive at a
multinational company in 2005, having two children, and now standing as Pearl Falco’s MD and co-owner.

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Her penchant for the versatile and evergreen is present in Pearl Falco’s 4,000-piece collection distinguished by discreet designs. As fashion trends favour oversized accessories adorned with oddly shaped baroque pearls, the brand remains true to its classical design ethos, highlighting the perfect roundness of Akoya pearls. The pieces span elegant strands of uniformly sized orbs and delicate brooches featuring intricate filigree work. Each is decidedly subtle but makes a statement nonetheless.

“Every pearl undergoes about 3,000 human interactions – from being cultivated in the waters to being harvested, graded, and finally being crafted. The pristine, calm waters off the coast of Ise-Shima, along with the forested mountains connected to the sea by streams and rivers, have all contributed to the development of the cultured pearl industry since 1906,” Makito says.
“However, Akoya pearl production in Ise-Shima is rapidly declining because of global warming. Pollution and irregular ocean temperatures have wiped out 80 per cent of Akoya oysters. I have become more aware of the importance of preserving nature as a result of my work in this industry.” When choosing pieces that are long-lasting in terms of both design and quality, she helps to protect the environment by minimising consumption.

Pearl Falco’s heirloom characteristics enable its pieces to pass through generations. During our meeting, Makito wore a pearl necklace and earrings passed down from her mother and grandmother. “Technological advancements might allow jewellery to be made quickly these days, but our artisans continue to craft each piece by hand to ensure that they last more than
one lifetime.”

(Related: How the Amarasuriyas run Singapore’s oldest family business)

Sartorial Selections

Cashmere coat, from Loro Piana. Wool dress, from Longchamp. Leather heels, from Jimmy Choo.
Cashmere coat, from Loro Piana. Wool dress, from Longchamp. Leather heels, from Jimmy Choo.

“Natural and simple” is how Makito describes her style. At our shoot, she demonstrated how muted hues can make a statement as she paired a whimsical necklace with pearls of different sizes with a long, black dress and a rich camel, cashmere coat.