We spoke to Jongjin “Jin” Jungsura, the co-founder of up-and-coming jewellery brand Matara studio, to hear her views on friendships, fashion, and life.
Elegant and petite, Jongjin “Jin” Jungsura looks a lot like the celebrity icons known for wearing pearls, from Grace Kelly, to Audrey Hepburn. Despite her feminine charms, you’d be mistaken to think she was anything close to mild. Bubbly, chatty, and full of smiles, she fills the whole room with rings of contagious laughter. It comes as little surprise, really, that the fast-talking businesswoman would oversee the sales and customer service side of Matara Studio — a homegrown luxury jewellery brand she built with her two childhood friends.
Hailing from a family rooted in hospitality and service, much of Jin’s vision today as a successful entrepreneur and leader stems from familial influences, her rather lustrous lifestyle, and experience gained over the years. We sat down with the Matara Studio co-founder to discuss her views on friendship, fashion, and life.
Matara Studio was sparked by her mother’s love for pearls.
Coco Chanel once said that “a woman needs ropes and ropes of pearls” — a phrase now heeled by stylish and sophisticated ladies all over the globe. You’d think that was what got Jin inspired, but she in fact came to love pearls because of her mother.
“My mother was born in June,” she tells us, explaining that pearls are the birthstone associated with that month. It was seeing her mother wear these stunning gems from the sea that sparked her fondness for them. “She loves them even more than diamonds, because you can wear them every day. I don’t know why, but every woman that I admire tends to wear pearls too. I feel women who wear pearls become more beautiful when they do so. I love the shape and shine of pearls, as well as seeing people wear them. I was born for it — pearls are my life!”
Behind it is an everlasting friendship.
Matara is an amalgam of Jin’s last name, as well as the names of her two co-founders — Salil “Tangmo” Andraphan, and Patchaploy “Prae” Matarungsombat. The three go back a long way, having studied together as kids at St. Francis Xavier Convent School, before continuing at Chulalongkorn University. While Jin continued to pursue her Master’s in International Management at Royal Holloway in the UK, and studied hospitality in Switzerland, they’ve always remained close. When asked whether she believes in the age-old mantra of keeping business and friendship separate, Jin unhesitatingly says it doesn’t apply to her group.
“We never blame each other, and always bring everything to the table to weigh the pros and cons. If you respect your friends and never start out with the intention to hurt them, there will always be ways to talk things out. I’ve never thought about it before, but my partners say that it’s a very valuable asset when friends work and get through things successfully together. Very few people can pull this off, so this is an immense blessing. I think our friendship is actually a strength, because where else can you just glance at each other and already know what the other is thinking?”
It’s also gone global.
Step into the Matara boutique at Gaysorn Village, or even the unassuming kiosk at Central Embassy, and you’ll find a showcase of stunning pearl jewellery, accentuated by timeless Parisian elegance and a hint of Nordic minimalism. That isn’t all — now in its sixth year of operations, Matara Studio is steadily expanding into multi-brand stores across the world, including those in London, Paris, New York, and even their first Southeast Asian venture in Laos this year. The brand also offers a series of fine jewellery pieces created in collaboration with S. Maneephand, available alongside the core studio collections Signature, Classic, and Glamour. There are even top-of-the-line collections such as Matara Atelier — a delicate and stylish line especially designed by fashion designer Patinya “Guitar” Kyokong, which is available on request at all Matara stores.
Arguably among the key selling points of Matara include the friendly accessibility, and a very reasonable price tag that takes up that sweet spot between four to six digits. Over the years, they’ve established a strong repute for providing young women with pearls that suit every style — reflecting also the varying preferences of the group of co-founders. “With jewellery, I always feel there’s a barrier,” Jin tells us, “You need to have money or be highly knowledgeable about the product so you can challenge the store owner. For instance, if I want a diamond, it’s not easy to simply waltz into a store and ask them to educate me about it. Often, traditional jewellers remain guarded [about specifics] and this is what makes buying quality jewellery more difficult. But for us, we’d rather be open in order to enlighten our customers. We’re happy to talk about pearls and will answer all the questions you have. Not everyone is born wanting to wear pearls, nor do they have the basic knowledge, so we have to be willing to help customers discover their preference and style.”
To Jongjin “Jin” Jungsura, success is in the smallest details.
When asked about the so-called secrets behind her success, Jin attributes a lot of it to observing even the smallest of details. “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together,” she says with a smile, quoting Vincent van Gogh. “I think that’s the reason Matara is the way it is today, because it really is an accumulation of every little thing.” She even highlights, for instance, the fact that she and her co-founders have never fought, not even during their primary school days.
Matara’s attention to detail is very much true. Following a philosophy of classic, with a modern and lighthearted zest, it’s the little things that make the brand experience one worth remembering — and returning to. For instance, the brand playfully addresses all customers as “madame” — even if the customer is a young professional, and clearly removed from the stiff image of a grand dame. As Jongjin put it, “We wanted to bring together the option of natural and cultured pearls for smart, working women, but with fun designs that were still valuable and timeless.”
And there doesn’t need to be a separation between work and play.
“I cannot separate my leisure from work. There’s really no point trying to,” Jin tells us with a laugh, adding admittedly that her favourite way to unwind is to cull pearls. She goes on to explain that even watching her favourite movies and TV series can serve as inspiration for her work.
Another one of Jin’s loves is to travel — a hobby that feeds into her career and spiritual richness. She’s been all around the globe with Prae and Tangmo, attending jewellery trade fairs and sourcing pearls. She tells us about a certain trip to Bahrain that has a special palace in her heart. The trio were part of the Thai Festival 2019, hosted by Thailand’s Ministry of Culture in Manama. There, Jin had the opportunity to present a brooch of the Thai numeral nine, to Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa. She’d also gotten the chance to explain to the uncle of the current reigning monarch the meaning behind the symbol, and how Thais wore it proudly in tribute to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. “His Royal Highness commented that our jewellery had a nice design and asked where our store was in Bangkok, and said he’d drop by for a visit,” Jin recalls excitedly.
While there is much happening for her right now, Jin does see the possibility of returning to her hospitality roots in the future, with dreams of one day creating a boutique seaside hotel. In the meantime though, she’s carefully considering her next steps. “I thought I’d have to marry and be a mum that wears a lot of pearls, but maybe that’s not a must anymore these days. I may have been working too much, and I’m very blessed to already have found my business partners, but I suppose I still have yet to come across that life partner. Whatever I focus on though, I only want to move ahead with joy.”
Photographer: Virunan Chiddaycha
Stylist: Ammara Yavilas
Makeup: Nontalee Wongpeng
Hair: Narongsak Yiamlaengamkool
Editorial Coordinator: Rattanachai Chaipornsantikul
Jewellery: Matara Studio
Location: Mandarin Oriental Bangkok