Pan, a short film and video editor, tells us all about his feather (pun intended) in cap moments while on his quest for pieces from the Japanese cult jewelry brand, Goro’s.
By Deana Zafir and Kim Hana
All photos courtesy of the collector
Goro’s is the elusive silver jewelry label from Japan created by the late Goro Takahashi. It’s a brand that chooses the buyer, not the other way around – even if you have the cash. And although acquiring Goro’s pieces can sometimes be a mission impossible, it has fans from all over the world. But forget the world – we wanted to speak to a collector closer to home. We found that in Pan, a Malaysia based Goro’s enthusiast. He tells us how he discovered the brand and shares his pilgrimage experience to the Tokyo store (the only one in the world).
Give us an overview of your Goro’s collection.
I own a total of seven items including three pieces of XL feathers, two wallets, one silver bracelet and a leather bracelet. My collection is very basic compared to old-timer collectors. I’m just lucky to have a chance to own the items I have and have a chance to enter the Goro’s shop.
What’s the most expensive item in your collection?
Top Gold Turquoise XL Feather.
Which is your favorite item?
The Top Gold Turquoise XL Feather and Gold Top Turquoise Leather Bracelet. These are my favorites because both are part of a matching set, and also I spent six days queuing in Tokyo last year for them. I spent lots of sweat and tears on this set.
Tell us about your very first Goro’s purchase.
My first Goro’s set I bought in 2013 from a good friend of mine. It cost me around RM6,500 (approx. S$2,080).
How did you first discover Goro’s?
Actually, I first discovered Goro’s way back in 1997, both from the Japanese street-vintage magazine Boon and from Japanese pop culture, which was booming then. I was inspired by the legendary Takuya Kimura, who wore Goro’s. It was a good time for us; for those who like vintage clothing and Japanese street culture.
What about Goro’s appeals to you?
I like Goro’s because it has been making fine silver jewelry and leather products in Japan for over 40 years, even before the Japanese pop culture was a hit around Asia during the mid 90s. Another reason is that Goro’s silver jewelry, which is inspired by Native American and Navajo symbols and motifs, is the best match for vintage style.
Being such a niche brand with only one store in Japan, where else do you go to find Goro’s accessories outside of Japan?
You can never find Goro’s outside of Japan. At best, I would order from a trusted reseller shop from Japan that ships to Malaysia. There are many designated groups on Facebook selling Goro’s, but no one can be a hundred percent sure the stuff is original, so buy at your own risk.
Is the Goro’s scene growing?
Yes, even though I wish it weren’t. Most true Goro’s fans won’t want to see the “scene” grow because it will be harder for us to get our hands on a piece. That also explains why Goro’s has no qualms kicking off suspected resellers in the queue every morning.
What do you think of the scene in Malaysia?
The scene in Malaysia is growing too, but at a much slower rate than in other countries in Asia such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. But no thanks to the hype, the price of having Goro’s delivered to Malaysia is now way overpriced. I know some old-timer collectors in Malaysia who’ve been collecting since 2005. They own rare items like the Bottom Gold XL Feather and Silver Beads Chain. These two items are very rare and expensive in the market as they rarely leave the shop.
How has the collector profile changed over the years?
Now, when you queue for Goro’s in Tokyo, you’ll notice people in the queue wearing all hype gear from top to toe. These are usually tourists or resellers – Japanese locals don’t dress that way.
What are the barriers to entry where it comes to collecting Goro’s?
Cash? They don’t accept card. But if the store keepers don’t think you’re suitable for the pieces you’ve chosen, they won’t sell it to you even if you have the cash.
Many collectors have said that one must first go to Tokyo to experience the pilgrimage first hand. Tell us your first pilgrimage experience.
This was in November 2016. I was in Tokyo and didn’t want to miss a chance to queue up for a set of Goro’s. I went to the shop every morning at 10am to queue for a raffle number to try my luck at entering the shop. While queuing it was fun to look at all the other Goro’s fans wearing their own pieces and matching their jewelry to their unique styles. Meanwhile, the Goro’s staff checked me twice to confirm I wasn’t a reseller since tourists or suspected resellers are asked to leave the queue.
Anyway, I queued for three days straight, but never got a good number. On the fourth day, I raffled the lucky number “2” and finally got to enter the shop! When I stepped into the orange building going up the narrow stairway leading to the store with six other people, I felt like it was all worth it.
Next thought that came to my mind: will they let me buy the items that I want? After the customer with raffle number “1” was done with his purchase, it was my turn. I pointed at the small cupboard on the wall directly at the Top Gold Turquoise XL Feather that I had been dreaming of. Fortunately, the staff said, “Yes, OK!”, and took the piece out of the drawer and placed it on the table so I could inspect it.
“Anything else?”, he asked. Goro’s rule is that each person can buy up to three items, but these cannot be repeated pieces. I looked around and spotted the leather bracelet, which is of the same series as my Top Gold Turquoise Feather XL. Another female staff next to him took out the leather bracelet that I picked and put it on my wrist for size. It looked good and I was loving it!
“Anything else, sir?”, asked the staff again. Suddenly I was reminded of the biggest problem: do I have enough cash to pay? I took out my wallet to check how much I had on me and luckily I had enough by not buying a thing until I made it to Goro’s!
That day, I spent a total of ¥165,000 (approx. S$2,030) with tax and no VAT refund! After paying and leaving the store with an empty wallet, I still felt good. It was mission accomplished.
Are there any hard and fast rules that apply to caring for Goro’s accessories?
Some like it dark and some like to keep it shiny; I have pieces in both finishes. I like to keep the older set I have dark because Goro’s silver is known to have this matte black finish when it’s worn 24/7. My newer set I try to keep shiny and good as new, so I use a silver polish cloth to polish it once in a while. Info on how to care for silverware can easily be found online. Using toothpaste or silver polish works too. Anyway, Goro’s accessories should be worn as it grows with you.
Do you have any tips for those new to collecting Goro’s or those who are thinking about getting into it?
I would say it’s all about the knowledge; how much you know about Goro’s history determines what kind of buyer you will be. If you wanna join the hype and jump into this but know nothing about it, you will end up buying a fake at a super crazy high price. I’ll leave this with you: “Only wear what you love, not what is hype.”
Keep up with Pan’s growing collection by following him on Instagram and Facebook.
This interview has been edited and condensed.