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Ikigai Spotlight Series: Kaori Yatsumoto, Founder & Designer based in London, UK.

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

Kaori: My journey has been a struggle...

Ikigai is a concept that is very much integral to Japanese culture. The word 'Ikigai' can be roughly translated to your 'reason for being', or purpose and is not confined to the ‘Venn Diagram’. More on its authentic definition can be explored here.

While Ikigai is essential to one's well-being, the true beauty is that it does not have a fixed equation and can change over time.

At Mogami, we would like to highlight this nuance with our 'Ikigai Spotlight Series'.

This month's featured guest is Kaori Yatsumoto (47), an Founder & Designer of sustainable apparel brands kaoriyatsumoto & KOCOKIDS, based in London, UK.

Tell us your story.

I was born in Hyogo, Japan. I specialised in tourism and graduated from Rikkyo University in Tokyo. After working for the Westin Hotel Tokyo, I came to London to study business and tourism management. While I was working in the travel industry, I undertook a two-year dressmaking and design course, fueled by my enduring passion for design and creation. This led me to start selling women's apparel online, followed by kids' items, and eventually expanding into upcycled and indigo-dyed apparel.

What has been your personal journey with your Ikigai(s) or reason for being?

I tend to try everything I like to do, sometimes without thinking things through or considering the future. As a result, I have numerous regrets stemming from the choices I've made. Additionally, I lack confidence and constantly find myself feeling dissatisfied. Thus, my journey has been a struggle in many ways, and it continues to be so.

How does your life today reflect your authentic self and life priorities?

I'm coming to appreciate the beauty of uniqueness and self-expression even more now, and I've been diving into the world of traditional Japanese culture by exploring indigo dyeing. This journey has also been helping me rediscover the splendour of my home country as I witness the transformation of exquisite kimonos into upcycled pieces.

Sadly, the rapid disposal of these artistic kimonos is disheartening. With this in mind, I've embarked on an upcycling endeavour, aiming to breathe new life into old kimonos and obis. My aspiration is that these revived pieces can find their way into the wardrobes and lives of people today, even if it's just a small contribution.

Can you walk us through a time in your life when you felt lost? What ideas or tools helped you overcome this period?

Before I delved into my creative pursuits, I was sometimes tired of socialising. I questioned whether I was genuinely experiencing joy from what I was doing in my professional or personal sphere. Embracing this opportunity, I embarked on a journey into Western-style dressmaking, recognising that postponing it would lead to regret.

I am so grateful that the journey of pregnancy and childbirth has also allowed me to focus on and engage in ものづくり, or “the craftsmanship of creating things” that I have always been interested in.

Although I've yet to encounter significant obstacles, the positive feedback I receive on my creations fills me with joy and gratitude. Nonetheless, the path isn't devoid of challenges, given that I single-handedly manage production, advertising, and sales—an undertaking that continues to challenge me.

What would be your advice to anyone struggling to live a life of Ikigai?

Go ahead and pursue what you would like to do. Seek advice from those around you. Don't be afraid to make mistakes; don't worry about what others might think of you.

Saori's reflection

I found the vibrancy of Kaori-san's pieces radiates inner strength and beauty. Alongside her authenticity and willingness to share challenges, it profoundly resonated, serving as a kind reminder of what makes us human. Our mutual respect for craftsmanship connected with me deeply, and I eagerly anticipate owning one of her upcycled pieces.


Do you want to learn more?

You can follow Kaori-san and her journey on her Instagram @kaoriyatsumoto.

*san is an honorific suffix used in Japanese

The reflection and journey of the other pieces guide us to a life of Ikigai. Ikigai is a journey, not a destination. It is the outcome of being able to live as your authentic self in your everyday life.

What did this story bring up for you? Comment below.



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