NYC-based George Inaki Root, CEO and Creative Director of Milamore, a newcomer on the fine jewelry scene, designs pieces influenced by his Japanese-Filipino origins that connect with his wearers’ experiences and emotions. I sit down with him to discuss cofounding his brand with Azusa Yamato and the choice to produce his jewels in Japan.
How and when did you become interested in jewelry, and when did you know you wanted to be a jewelry designer?
I don’t know why, but I’ve always been obsessed with precious gems that heroes and villains fight over in comic books since I was a child. I worked at a jewelry store as a sales associate when I was 20 years old for two years. That’s when I learned the ins and outs of jewelry. Fast forward a decade later, I was approached by an acquaintance and my cofounder, Azusa, who asked me to start a brand, and that is how Milamore came to life! Azusa comes from a family jewelry business, so that’s why we can make high-quality, beautiful jewelry that is handcrafted in Japan.
Before starting your own jewelry brand, in which companies did you work, and why did you make the switch in 2019?
I’ve worked for myself since 2014, which happens to be the year I moved from Japan to New York. I was doing digital PR and branding, bridging international brands such as Chanel and Armani Beauty with the Japanese market. As you may know, Japan is such a unique market. My consulting clients needed somebody who understands the Japanese market, but also has an international background to keep the branding of headquarters. It was fun doing that; I met amazing people and experienced so many things. I got to experience the glamorous side of fashion by going to shows for Chanel, Dior, Hermès, etc., but I’m very happy and passionate about what I am doing now, and I love that I am building an international luxury brand.
Describe to me your design language and philosophy. What are your sources of inspiration?
The sources of my inspiration are my life experience and people whom I have met and continue to meet. I like to hear people’s stories and experiences and try to connect to them and understand what they’ve been through. For me, that is very empowering.
What is your approach towards the materials that you use?
We only use 18K gold, but I’d like to explore platinum as well. Our stones are all natural. I like the idea of wearing the gifts from Mother Earth and to “borrow” their shine, making us humans look glamorous and powerful by wearing jewelry.
What new innovations do you incorporate in your jewelry making?
If you think about it, making jewelry in Japan is not common. But I believe in Japanese craftsmanship and I love communicating with my artisans. They say the highlight of their careers is working with Milamore even though they have decades of experience. It makes me happy to hear that they are proud of working with us because we are growing rapidly internationally. For me, supporting Japan’s jewelry industry is innovative.
How are you adopting a different approach and mentality to jewelry making, away from traditional jewelry? How do you differentiate yourself from other jewelry brands?
My artisans often say that my vision is very unusual and a parade of surprises. Maybe because I’m from the fashion industry, the way I style jewelry is very unique. For instance, I love mixing yellow gold and white gold. Apparently that wasn’t really common before and people still want to wear one metal color, but I think it’s fun to mix it! And my Kintsugi collection is very fresh even though this philosophy has existed for centuries. The idea is that the wearer completes the design because every single one of us has a different story. Finding beauty in the flaw is beautiful to me.