Attending Weddings in Japan

Like many other countries, the most popular season for weddings in Japan is right around summer time, especially after tsuyu. From traditional Shinto wedding ceremonies, western-influenced “white weddings” (where the bride wears a white dress and the groom wears a white tuxedo), to a mixture of both, Japanese weddings vary greatly in style from couple to couple, which makes for an incredibly exciting experience to attend every chance you get!

To make sure you enjoy the most out of a wedding in Japan, we look into the etiquettes, things to watch out for and how weddings during the year of COVID has shifted.

Being Invited

Japanese weddings closely follow the same format of any other wedding with speeches, exchange of rings, delicious food, and even a cake-cutting ceremony. The invitation list is more intimate than western weddings, where usually only close friends, family, and bosses and coworkers are invited. These invitations are usually only for those invited and do not include a plus-one not only to cut costs, but to also keep the invitation within the bride and groom’s supervision. The after-party of the wedding is reserved only for the newlywed’s personal guest list, rather than the formal list of the initial wedding invitation, and oftentimes take place in smaller venues such as restaurants or Japanese pubs. As these events are exclusive, it is always seen as a great honor to receive invitations as it means that the newlyweds perceive you as a close friend. But being a guest at a Japanese wedding could also bring forth a number of responsibilities that many may find stressful.

Stressors of Japanese Weddings

According to MyNavi, the top three reasons Japanese people feel the most stressed for attending weddings are giving speeches, deciding how much to give for the wedding gift, and what to wear. The largest factor being speeches, over 80% of the surveyed people answered that they felt immense pressure to have to deliver a speech that would be captivating and entertaining. The second most stressful factor, deciding an appropriate amount to spend on the wedding gift, comes in at nearly 65%. Unlike other countries, Japanese weddings do not have gift registries or even a custom of gifting objects. Instead, it is customary for wedding attendees to gift the newlyweds money. This may seem like a wonderful way to cut time on shopping for gifts or worrying that the couple would not like their gift, but as a general value is not set, it can cause stress in deciding on an amount.

According to the Zexy 2020 Trend Report, the most popular amount to gift was 30,000-40,000yen from friends and coworkers (97.7%), and 50,000-100,000yen from employers and family (47.2%, 57.6%). As these gifts can be quite expensive, this is another reason why the invitation list is kept at an intimate level to not burden those who are not as close to the newlyweds. In return, each guest is given a gift when leaving the reception. In 2020, the most popular items that were given were gift catalogues as well as small snacks such as cookies and cakes. These gifts range from 5000-6000yen per guest, and totals up to 300,000-400,000yen in fees (Zexy). Gift catalogues are a popular return or ‘thank-you’ gift in Japan where a prepaid catalogue full of items ranging from specialty foods to home appliances are handed to the recipient where they can choose the desired item they’d like to receive. By opting for gift catalogues, the guests do not have to worry about carrying heavy items back home, especially if they plan to attend the after-party, and they can also choose the best gift for themselves.

The third stressor, deciding what to wear, is a conundrum almost 63% of people face. In Japan, it is not only acceptable but it is actually preferred for wedding guests to wear darker colors such as black and navy, whereas in western customs these colors are avoided. At Japanese weddings it is best to avoid bright or bold colors and prints as it may be distracting and could potentially take attention away from the newlyweds. For women, dresses in neutral colors that provide modest coverage both to the shoulders and down to the knees is preferred, as well as close-toed shoes. Some women also opt to wear a traditional kimono as well. Despite the intimate guest list, weddings in Japan are still treated with high formality, which is best attended in appropriate formal attire. As formal clothing can be uncomfortable, especially when worn for prolonged hours like a wedding, kay me dresses are the perfect solution as the stretchy material provides day-long comfort. A recommendation that we have for weddings is our classic Navy Gather Dress, which is made from a breathable triacetate blend fabric, perfect for the hot summer months! The cut of the dress is modest, yet chic and feminine, and photographs beautifully from any angle.

Pair the dress with our 29-Pocket Wallet Bag that can be transformed as a clutch and hold all of your wedding guest essentials (including business cards!). The bag is available in an array of colors, including champagne gold, which is a perfect way to add a subtle pop of color to your celebratory outfit! Transform the bag from a clutch to a crossbody when attending the after-party to keep your essential items close to you while keeping both of your hands free.

Weddings during COVID-19

With events in the past year being heavily affected by COVID-19, weddings in Japan have slightly shifted in order for guests to safely celebrate the newlywed couple. Some of these changes are of course the implementation of masks, hand sanitizers, and maintaining social distance, but also how guests attend the wedding. According to Cross Marketing, in a demographic of women aged 30-60 only 34.8% attended weddings in person during 2020. Instead, they opted for sending letters and packages to celebrate the newlyweds, had live calls during the wedding, or attended the wedding ceremony virtually. Interestingly, in the same demographic range of men, the physical attendance rate was 54%, and a way those who chose not to attend in-person included holding a celebration event virtually hosted on a gaming platform. These innovative solutions served, and continue to serve, as a safe and convenient way for people to still attend or celebrate the wedding. Not only has this new style of wedding attendance served its purpose during these trial times, but it has also allowed family members and friends who cannot normally attend these celebrations due to health, location, or any other complications, to join the celebration with a few clicks.

Although attending a wedding alone may seem intimidating at first, it serves as a perfect opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and to network with other guests who are most likely attending by themselves as well. There may be a number of stressful factors as a wedding guest, especially when you are in unfamiliar settings, but in Japan it is custom for weddings to have a set itinerary and tight-knit schedule that is sent to the guests prior to the wedding day to avoid any confusion and to answer questions guests may have. Slip on your favorite kay me outfit to feel confident, beautiful, and comfortable all day so you can just simply focus on enjoying the wedding and celebrating the embarkation of the couple’s new life together!

Make getting ready for your next special occasion fuss-free and easy with our latest selection of machine-washable, stretchy dresses.

Meet Catherine O’Connell, the “Lawpreneur” empowering women in law – Part 2

We met with busy trailblazer Catherine O’Connell, an entrepreneur, lawyer and leader to one of Tokyo’s leading networking group for supporting and empowering women, Women In Law Japan. In Part 1, we dove into her success becoming a “Lawpreneur” and learn what it takes to step up as a leader in the female community in Tokyo. Today, we get more personal and hear about the people and books which inspire Catherine and her points to dressing for business.

A role model in New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern

I got to meet her in person in Tokyo in September 2019 and also got to sit with her and talk all manner of things during a business luncheon meeting. How down to earth, smart and funny she is. I’ve loved seeing her be a role model for global leaders, for women, and for men.

I especially loved it when she said “One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or not assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.”

This is the essence of true leadership. She said that following the terror attack in Christchurch in March 2019 and it has resonated with me ever since. If only I can be half the leader she is, I will double my current leadership energy in the community.

Finding inspiration in memoirs and women who challenge the status quo

I have just finished three amazing books. One is a New York Times Bestseller “Lead from the Outside” by Stacy Abrams and the other is a memoir by Karen Hill Anton called “The View from Breast Pocket Mountain”. I also just finished reading another incredibly amazing book called “More than Enough” by Elaine Welteroth, from which an inspiration for driving my “Lawyer on Air” Podcast comes.

She said: “there is so much wisdom locked up in the stories women never tell”. I’m doing what I can to tell those stories and amplify women’s voices in Japan.

Know your rhythm to make your schedule

A day in the life of Catherine O’Connell:

7:30 AM: I’m an early riser so I’m typically at my desk doing creative work for my business and always 20-30 minutes reading for pleasure or a chapter of a business-success book.

8:30 AM: I am on calls and in mastermind groups working on self-development. Usually around mid-morning, if it is a day that I am recording a podcast episode with one of my guests, I would jump online and do the recording, and work on the show notes and social media content with my podcast producer after that.

10:00 AM: By this time, I’ll be on my second coffee of the day (only 2 coffees/day) and I will be right into client calls or client work.

12:00PM: At this time, I turn off lights in my office and take a break including a walk outside. I prep all my lunches on a Sunday so lunches working @home are a breeze. There is nothing like preparation to set you up well for the week.

From 13:00PM: I tend to devote the afternoon to networking, introductions, pitch type calls with clients and potential clients and people I may build long term relationships with. Usually in the evening I have online meetings with organizations I’m involved in such as FEW Japan (a network of women empowering women in Tokyo) and some of the Chambers of Commerce. Before COVID-19 I was consistently out in the evenings networking, but I now (secretly!) relish being at home in the evenings and connecting with people online for fun or building relationships for business.

From January 2021, I adopted a “healthfirst, immunity-first” approach and intermittent fasting is part of my lifestyle now, so I will finish eating by 7:00 PM in the evening through around 1:00 PM next day. To me fasting is not a diet but a lifestyle and it provides me with great liberation, and freedom around having only two meals and the rest of the day for exercise, working, self-time and enjoyment.

Dressing as a sign of respect

I always aim to look stylish and put together for the day from the first call to the last.

How we dress is a mark of respect not only to ourselves but to the person we are meeting with or the event we are attending.

Nowadays, the shift to on-line has allowed people to be more casual in dress style. That is not wrong but it is not the style for me. I like to wear outfits that inspire confidence and professionalism with whomever I am engaging with.

Tip 1: Make it “Stylish”

When I say “stylish”, it isn’t something over the top or the latest fashion trend, but more of a preference for classic designs. I tend to go for separates and love dresses to emit my feminine personality. I usually choose one or two bold colors (blue, red, yellow, orange, pink, green, silver, gold or rose gold) to set off a traditional black and navy core garment.

Tip 2: Accessories make the perfect conversation starter

On my travels overseas I have always looked for interesting jewelry to incorporate in my outfits. I make a point of dressing with one special eye-catching item that is a talking piece like a brooch, or a ring I have made (yes, I make accessories) or a statement necklace. You can style-up any outfit with accessories and keeping an eye out for interesting and novel pieces is a curious activity I adopt.

Tip 3: Don’t let your game down for online meetings.

When I need to work online, from top to ankle I am dressed as I would if I were in an office setting. From left and right of my iMac screen, I have excellent soft yellow lighting prepared and I always have my lips colored and ready for action.

Impressions wearing kay me

kay me clothing is so versatile and really fits my image.

I moved away from suits as a lawyer some years ago, and prefer the dress and jacket look now. I also really love prints and so kay me is easy to fit into the image of professionalism x femininity that I want to portray to my clients and business stakeholders.

A lot of thought has gone into the design and the selection of the stretchy materials of kay me dresses so that they flatter women’s different sizes, and heights and are truly easy to co-ordinate.
I loved the playfulness of the Tiny Dot pattern, and this can easily take me from daywear any season, through to evening if I slip on a jacket. It was such a breathtaking moment to put on the Tiny Dot dress and I squealed with delight when the zip went right up! It cinched me nicely at the waist and glided over my lower body and it felt really nice to wear. I loved the pockets in this design especially. 

I am a big fan wearing color as well, and my eyes were drawn into the Japanese design of the Takeyabu Green Wrap dress that I wore in Part 1. I loved that this was a wrap dress and how easy it was to wear. It would be simple to take in an overnight bag or in-flight and arrive fresh and ready for business meetings. There is no way anyone would not see you and remember you in this Japanese print. It’s a signature piece of clothing and I felt elevated wearing this design. 

What I noticed wearing the pumps was how they gave the illusion of longer looking legs, which was a new discovery for me. I had such a great time trying on the perfectly made dresses and look forward to seeing further designs in the various ranges they have.

Meet Catherine O’Connell, the “Lawpreneur” empowering women in law – Part 1

At kay me, we are always inspired by the amazing achievements and examples set by ambitious individuals who stand up to the challenge. In this series, we chat to International female entrepreneurs who are paving their own paths and leading the way for others in Japan, and hear their stories, advice and perspectives starting up their success.

Recently, we caught up with “Lawpreneur” from New Zealand, Catherine O’Connell, the first international woman to start up her own law firm in Tokyo, who is now empowering women in Japan to reach their potential. She shares her career story and networking advice with us.

Tell us about a little about your background

Born and raised in New Zealand, after leaving school and delving into an intense course of study of the Japanese language, I dived into a first career as a tour guide with JTB.

I then pivoted into law and became a lawyer working with Japanese businesspeople and ex-pat corporates. An opportunity arose to come to work in Japan for 1 year and, well, I’ve now been living and working in Japan for 18 years! 

After building experience as in-house legal counsel in big Japanese corporates and working in Tokyo and London for an international law firm, I became a “Lawpreneur” – a entrepreneurial lawyer – and launched my own boutique law firm in Tokyo. In 2020 I won an Entrepreneur of the Year Award which I am most proud of.

When I am off work, I love watching rugby, wine tasting, making jewelry as a pastime as well as taking walks which I call #soulstrolls.

Making the career jump: the road to establishing her law firm in Japan

Boldness is not a muscle you are born with; boldness is a muscle you can build and learn over time. After amassing experience in all four corners of the legal world (working in-house at headquarters; APAC head of legal in a US subsidiary; International law firm solicitor and several secondments) I had enough boldness to take a leap. I knew it was time to utilizing all this business law experience to give clients are truly practical business-based lawyer experience. I wanted more balance and flexibility in my professional life, and I wanted to disrupt the legal services industry and provide a fresh approach to legal services with a flexible lawyer option.

On International Women’s Day in March 2021, Japan’s first lawyer-led legal podcast program “Lawyer on Air” was launched. We talk to female lawyers working in Japan, all things law and entrepreneurship. I decided to launch this podcast so that I can shine a brilliant light on the extremely wonderful women lawyers who surround me, inspire me and support me as they excel in their work in Japan. I’m passionate about giving them a platform to share their stories and successes as a woman lawyer working in the Land of the Rising Sun.

If anyone knows someone who would be a wonderful guest on my show please let me know!

https://www.catherineoconnelllaw.com/podcast

The key to success is “Networking”

Networking was and still is absolutely central to my success. Without the extensive and deep network I have, I don’t think I would have had the courage to attempt to launch a law practice in Japan. It is our networks that sustain us – for information and advice, for directing potential clients to us and for keeping their ears open for us to share our voice through various speaking opportunities. For me networking means “building relationships” and because I had built relationships over many years I had the confidence to open my own business and be supported by these people I had built relationships with.

Catherine’s Three Tips for Networking

Tip 1: Every connection you make is a valuable one.

I had built a network of people over the last 20 plus years and so I would recommend anyone setting up in business that they have some finances and have an established network of people to call upon for the spectrum of support you need to run a successful business. I think the biggest challenge when I started was the initial setup, and the time it took to do the paperwork with the Ministry of Justice, and with the banks in Japan. The paperwork bottleneck is still a big problem for setting up business in Japan. Other than that, I really didn’t have many challenges, as I had savings to financially sustain me and many people, male and female reached out to help me and refer clients to me in my early days.

Tip 2: Build bridges that last. Don’t burn them.

Networking is a long-game play and not about what you can grab.  I also think it’s very important when you leave a workplace to go to new pastures, that you do not burn any bridges. It’s bound to be the case that in future roles, your path will cross over the network of people from your past. Keeping professional relationships is critical for strengthening your networks even more and a sour relationship will weaken your network.

Networking is a two-way street and I always have at the forefront of my mind what I can do for that person to help them, and usually they help me further down the track.

Tip 3: Asking for introductions is key

If you are a little bit shy, I would suggest you ask one person in every meeting you are in, to help introduce you to someone in their network. In order to do that, you need to be able to introduce yourself well and say what it is you do to help others. That way a person can easily introduce you to the right people who you can build relationships with.

Being the leader of a diverse network for female legal practitioners, “Women in Law Japan”

I love working with this group of fantastic lady lawyers and I am really proud of what insights and knowledge sharing we produce for the big network of lawyers and people working in the law in Japan. Our members are all full-time lawyers working in house or in private practice and they are super busy in their daily work. However somehow they all manage to come together in unison to create and curate all of the events and activities that we deliver to our 300-strong membership. I have to give big credit to the previous President, Rika Beppu, who set up things very nicely and efficiently so that I could walk into the role from January 2021 with ease.

In such a leadership role you have to be really well organized, prepare agendas, instigate and oversee the event planning, and build comradery so that the team work as one unit. I also take the time to guide so that others can take charge of different aspects of the organization such as social media channels, the website, specialist committees. I’ve learned a lot as the leader of this Not for Profit board.

I would like to provide full support to all female lawyers. The more people there are, the wider the network and the stronger and more empowered the community becomes.

Find our more about “Women In Law Japan” here:

https://womeninlawjapan.org/

In the next part, we take a closer look into the day of Catherine’s busy schedule, hear her inspirations and find out more on her style philosophy. Read Part Two.

For more beautiful kimono-inspired dresses made in Japan, see our selection below:

How to Survive Rainy Days in Japan

As the last of the sakura petals fall, a lush wave of greenery washes over Japan, welcoming the warmer days of spring. However, before summer can truly arrive, the country is met by a month-long rainy season, or tsuyu (梅雨=plum rain). This unpredictable season brings a mixture of heavy rain, extreme humidity, high winds, and unstable temperatures. Here are a few tips and tricks to survive the rainy season of Japan, and to even enjoy it!

The ‘Tsuyu’ Essentials

Going to work during the rainy season can impose many unpleasant hurdles such as commuting in the rain, walking into heavily air-conditioned rooms, and being surrounded by extreme humidity. A few tsuyu season must-haves for any woman on the go in Japan are body wipes, stick hair wax, blotting paper and powder, and a small towel. Many of these items are centered around being convenient, portable, and mess-free and to keep a fresh appearance throughout the day. All of these items (and more!) can easily be stored in the kay me Boxy Pouch, which comes in two sizes, small and large. Keep your items not only neat and organized in your bag, but it also adds extra protection from sudden rainfall with its water-repellant surface!

Dressing for the Office

Workwear can also make a great difference in how comfortable you stay throughout your day and in recent weeks, we have seen more and more interest our Cotton-blend Suit range. A recommendation for all-day comfort is our Gray Stretch I-Line Trousers, which feature a slightly shortened hem which will prevent them from being soaked from sudden rain or unexpected puddles. The cotton blend jersey material used is light, breathable, and quick-drying and after a long day, you can also throw it in the wash, hang it up to dry and have a fresh set for the next day. Pair these trousers with your favorite top and the matching Cotton Blend Jersey jacket for an instantly gorgeous and comfy rainy day outfit!

As a way to subside the humidity, many workplaces keep their air-conditioning on, which can result in a chilly atmosphere, especially coming inside after being dampened by the rain. To avoid the cold workplace, we recommend packing an extra, lightweight layer that can be easily thrown on whenever additional warmth is needed. A suggestion we have is our White Kanazawa Side-Slit Cardigan! This lightweight cardigan provides breathable coverage all the way down to the knees and features the perfect design to pair with any dress or outfit. Simply throw this cardigan over when you feel chilly, or even drape it over your knees when working at your desk. The possibilities of this versatile piece are endless!

Traveling in the Tsuyu season

Many may feel discouraged from traveling on rainy days, but with the right location and attire, it can easily make for a charming adventure. Like the crimson red momiji leaves in the autumn and the blush-colored petals of sakura blossoms in the spring, tsuyu season is most famous for their breathtaking ajisai (hydrangea) blooms. Hydrangeas in Japan range from white, blue, purple, red, and any mixture of these colors. The scenery of an ocean of bloomed ajisai is one that many local Japanese people leave the comfort of their homes for, despite the gloomy weather. During this time, many places partake in ajisai festivals filled with traditional Japanese cuisine, contests, and various entertainments that can be enjoyed by all ages. Temples around areas such as Kamakura and Kyoto are also popular locations to enjoy hydrangea blooms as they are often planted along the entire pathways leading to and around the temples. For a stroll around the temples of Kamakura, we recommend a lightweight cotton dress, like our Khaki Cotton Shirt Dress, which helps wick away moisture for lasting, soft comfort.

As it is likely that you will need to hold an umbrella when exploring Japan during tsuyu, it is highly recommended that you carry a bag that will free up both arms. A perfect travel companion is our 29 Pocket Wallet Bag, which easily fits all of your necessities (and more!) into a compact bag that can be worn three ways; as a clutch, shoulder bag, and crossbody. Wear the 29 Pocket Wallet Bag as a crossbody to free both arms for your umbrella in one hand and your phone in the other to take snapshots of the gorgeous hydrangea in the rain!

Whether experiencing tsuyu at work or on your days off, there are several ways to make the experience much more enjoyable. For example, shopping for a new favorite pair of rain boots, or taking a stroll around your local area in a different light, or rather an overcast. No matter what you do during this season, if you are planning to step out of the house, be sure to grab your trusty umbrella and any other rain gear to avoid any unexpected downpours. Keeping these tips and tricks in mind will surely make this rainy season not only a breeze, but also filled with exciting opportunities to explore Japan!

Meet Connie Sui Fung, Working mother and entrepreneur from Malaysia helping women look and feel their best – Part 2

We sat down with Connie Sui Fung, image consultant, business owner and working mother to learn more about her story in Japan. In part one, we looked into her journey starting up her Color Me Tokyo business, from her challenges to advice and glimpsed into the origins that drove her to where she is today. For part two, we take a glimpse into the other side and learn what goes behind the scenes in a day of this busy working mother.

You are a busy mother of three! How is it like raising children in Japan?

It was not easy when they were young. In Japan, the mother is supposed to do everything herself, but I got lucky! My husband and parents-in-law supported me most of the time, which I am grateful for.

My Japanese was not good when I first came here, but my kindergarten mom’s friends helped me a lot. They shared information on child-rearing in Japan and they always made me feel at home. I really appreciated that.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Depends on which day. I usually work from 10am to 3pm.

Like yesterday, I made breakfast for my kids and got myself ready. After my girls left home for school, I did some quick housework before meeting my client at 10am. Then I had lunch with my husband at neighborhood restaurant. 
After that I worked on Color Me Tokyo homepage. Since I created the website, I manage it myself. 

Then, I dropped off my youngest girl to swimming school and I prepared dinner. After dinner, I dropped off my Junior High school girl to cram school and did the laundry. And finally, I prepared for a business meeting today before going to bed.

What do you need out of clothing to meet your current lifestyle as an image consultant, business owner and mother? Any rules that you set for your style?

As a mother I need to run after my children and take them from here to there and have to meet clients on the same day, so I want clothing that is easy to wear and comfortable, yet I do not need to change out of …. I call it a multi-purpose dress, functional dress or an all-in-one dress. If I travel, the last thing I want to be concerned about is having wrinkled items when we take family photos and I need to get ready quickly in the early morning, so wrinkle-resistant clothing is important for me.

Trying kay me for the first time, what are your impressions of the items?

The kay me dresses are the perfect fit for my preferences and lifestyle. I am a ‘Made in Japan’ fan and I prefer having machine-washable items. Most importantly, I need comfortable, functional, all-in-one dresses to wear from day to night. For example, with the Aqua Dot Marilyn Dress, I can wear it with sandals for the weekend or on a casual outing with my kids. If I throw a bolero on – for work. With high heels on – when I am on a date night with my husband. I like the softness, stretchiness and comfortable feel of the material, and it has side pocket! This is well-designed. There was time I wore the wrong dress, and my day was haywire. When I wear the right dress, I feel my day is fully accomplished. This dress is very ME. Somehow this dress also reminded me of one of Duchess Catherine’s dresses – I feel very elegant in it!

Where do you find inspiration nowadays?

I am in my mid-40’s now, I always want to prepare myself on how I look and be in 5 to 10 years from now.  I do research and read magazines aimed at women in their 50’s or 60’s like Eclat Magazine for style inspiration, or I would search from Pinterest with keywords such as “fashion for women over 50”.

What is your recommended spots to enjoy your family time in Tokyo?

The hotel buffet and musical theater.

They both sound like fun! We would love to know the hotel buffet you recommend and the musical you last watched.

Since Covid-19, we haven’t gone out for a buffet dinner, but we went to the same Grilled Eel restaurant Izumoya several times as we could get a private room. My kids like the taste of grilled eel there. The best Unagi in town.

The last musical we went was The Phantom of The Opera. I loved the live orchestra; it was the perfect combination with live stage musical performance. It was wonderful and lively. My kids liked the Aladdin the best. My daughter said it is better than the movie! We are looking forward to the next one.

Connie wears our Aqua Dot Marilyn Dress, White Crew-neck Cardigan and White Two-way Business Bag around Hibiya.

Catch Connie’s career journey in starting up her own businesses in Tokyo in Part One.

Meet Connie Sui Fung, working mother and entrepreneur from Malaysia helping women look and feel their best – Part 1

At kay me, we are always inspired by the amazing achievements and examples set by ambitious individuals who stand up to the challenge. In this series, we chat to International female entrepreneurs who are paving their own paths and leading the way for others in Japan, and hear their stories, advice and perspectives starting up their success. Recently, we caught up with Connie, a mother of three, image consultant and entrepreneur who moved with her family to Japan, eventually starting her own businesses in her 40’s. With little experience in business to start with, she worked her way to establish Color Me Tokyo, her own image consultant agency and now new ventures.

Tell us a little about your background

After I graduated from university in America, I worked for an American payment company as a Data Analyst in Singapore. There I met my husband, got married and had my first child We decided to move to Japan in year 2010, and a year after, my youngest child was born about a month before the Tohoku earthquake. I then started my own business after I turned 40 years old.

How did you start up Color Me Tokyo? What were the biggest challenges you faced starting up?

It was curiosity about how Japanese ladies look fresh and beautiful which turned into a business idea. I went to learn about the beauty culture and etiquette here and how to improve one’s appearance like how many Japanese people in society do. I saw the change myself. From there, I decided to make it my career.

I started the Image consulting salon right after I finished the course as a freelancer. I enjoyed doing the salon business setup, networking, and everything!  Being a newbie in Image consulting and the biggest challenge is customer acquisition.

Any style advice for our readers?

Love yourself.  Once you love yourself, you will care to know more about your style. Sorry back to the style. I would say, style is about balance. Know your face and body proportion. Knowing that, you will know what kind of color, clothing, jewelry, hairstyle, and makeup style is right for you. For example, I have rounded face shape.  I will not put on the round hoop earrings; I will choose something dangle or long to elongate my face.

My facial parts/features are not big, but I know clothing with large prints is not ideal for me.  And then I have my own uniform for work, girlfriend outing and family time.

“Talk to friends or any one you know about your ideas. You may never know; they may be your big investors. “


Could you share with us your experience with networking in Japan? How has that led you to where you are today?

I got distracted from my goals at times, so then I would attend networking sessions once a week, which helped me realign my focus, my goals and purpose. Being surrounded by like-minded ambitious people was a great reminder for me and I even met my current mentor there, who I turn to for advice even today.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start up their own business?

Talk to friends or any one you know about your ideas. You may never know; they may be your big investors.  Do not sit back and let life happen to you. Just get out of your comfort zone and try it. One other thing is you must enjoy the process. If you do not, then that may be not ideal for you, but never give up on the big picture.

Do you have a role model you look up to?

My mother and my sisters of course. My mother is very energetic. She taught me the mother’s role is just like the pillar of the house and making a good balance between business and family matters is key. As for my sisters, I respect my eldest sister business management style. She manages family businesses very efficiently. Then my younger sister is the true entrepreneur. She started her business from scratch. Now she has successfully made her clients look more luxurious with her jewelry.

In Japan, I admire many female entrepreneurs who are shaping the world around us and making a difference. I read your founder, Junko’s story and I admire her innovation.

Connie wears our Fresh Lime Daily Dress, Champagne Pink 29 Pocket Wallet Bag and Coral Pink Vegan Suede Puni Puni Pumps at our Ginza store.

See Part 2 coming up for more on what goes behind the day of Connie Sui Fung.

The New ‘Normal’ of Working Women

As we pass the one-year mark of the spread of COVID-19, there have been quite a few changes with our lives here in Japan, especially when it comes to daily activities such as work. As office meetings and conferences have shifted to virtual ones, the way we prepare for them from formulating outlines to planning what to wear has also shifted tremendously. Trousers and skirts have been replaced with sweatpants and loungewear, and classic work colors such as navy and gray have been opted out for fresh, bright colors such as yellow and red. Aside from appearance, another shift that has been observed is that consumers in Japan are opting for sustainable, domestically made clothing. Today, we’ll take a look at a few work fashion trends popular amongst women in Japan directly due to COVID-19, as well as a few predictions we have for the near future as the new ‘normal’ is established.

Going bright and bold

This past year has been full of teleworking rather than going into the office. Although in-office days have begun to trickle back, teleworking is still as popular as a year ago. According to a survey conducted by career support company Waris, a one of the most stressful aspects for women working from home has been the lack of communication and connection they have felt within their workplace. To combat this issue, many workplaces have increased online meetings. As these online meetings are still the main mode of communication for workplace teams, why not make it a special opportunity to boost morale and uplift the atmosphere – perhaps through the use of ‘color therapy’?

Interestingly, a trend that has become popular in the past year in Japan is the use of bright, bold colors which can easily provide extra liveliness during virtual meetings. For example, try adding a pop of color to your work wardrobe with a solid-color cardigan, like our vibrant Yellow Fresh Cardigan. As one of the Pantone Color of the Year 2021, bright yellow pieces have risen in popularity and worn to bring out one’s strength and positivity. Or for an instant boost of fiery confidence, try a rich red like our Berry Crewneck Cardigan or Red V-neck Cardigan. These gorgeous pieces can be worn over any outfit and are perfect for team meetings or presentations.

Comfort from underneath

As the restrictions have slowly (but surely) begun to lift here in Japan, days in the office have become more prevalent than this time last year.

Upon research, we discovered that in 2020 our most popular items came from our underdress collection, and we predict that they will continue to stay as our bestsellers in the upcoming months! Our versatile underdresses are available in an array of different sleeve lengths and material to fit any season or occasion. They’ve also been carefully crafted in order to fit perfectly under kay me dresses to optimize day-long comfort that all of our items guarantee. The shift from wearing loungewear and comfortable clothes during telework days has slowly returned to business attire and formalwear, but that doesn’t mean your clothes cannot be just as comfortable as your favorite pair of sweatpants, especially as these underdresses eliminate the need for girdles.

Traveling after COVID

According to a consumer survey conducted by Itochu Fashion System (IFS), 63% of all surveyees showed interest in traveling once the current situation with COVID-19 was alleviated. As options to travel will open in the near future, why not prepare by looking the part? Our loungewear collection makes the perfect companion for travel, whether the trip is hours away or just around the block.

Our Ivory Soft Hoodie, newly added to our First-Class Hoodie Collection, not only specializes in providing comfort for future trips, but pairs perfectly with our Relax Wide Trousers for a luxurious loungewear set. Whether for business or leisure, the kay me loungewear collection will have you traveling in style, and with stress-free comfort.

With a recent wave of consciousness on social media and a new light shone upon SDGs in Japan, it is reported that Japanese consumers are 68.5% more likely to choose an ethically made clothing item over its alternatives even if that means paying more (FUMIKODA). Due to the pandemic, there has also been a surge of demand for domestically-made items as well. Thankfully, when choosing kay me items, these factors are guaranteed for all of our collections so you can simply shop for your favorite items without worrying. As a new ‘normal’ has slowly established itself this past year, our mission is to continue supporting women in any and every challenge that comes their way. Since our establishment, we have worked towards providing women with sustainable clothing, including animal-friendly leather alternatives and bio-conscious triacetate chiffon. Whether purchasing our items online for our international customers, or in-store for those located in Japan, we hope that our items will provide you with familiar comfort and easy-care.

Whether searching for a classic jersey dress or a chic loungewear set, kay me is sure to have the perfect item that will fit the occasion even as the world faces constant changes.

Our Top 3 Office Suits for Summer

Welcome to our special feature on our top summer suits. As the temperature begins to rise and the humidity levels along with it, for many businesswomen choosing the right office attire to keep them cool and comfortable throughout the business day is a must.

Our top 3 office suits series are popular with many women in Japan, for their lightweight, breathable materials and chic style, providing a mix of functionality and style to help them take on their work in the sweltering season.

See the features of our three series, Smart Stretch, Airy Stretch and Cotton Blend along with our recommended outfits!

Smart Stretch

Our Smart Stretch series features wrinkle-resistance and a wonderful stretch that is beloved by many. With machine-washability and a luxe thickness that lets you wear it all-year round, it is the perfect series you can count on to last.

The Smart Stretch series is also the most extensive suit range, with a variety of designs and colors to choose from to perfectly match your mood and style.

Craft a chic and clean style with our Smart Stretch two-piece ensembles. Choose between our Midi-length A-line Skirt that offers feminine style and coverage to below the knees, or our slimming Straight Trousers for a sharp style.

Airy Stretch

One of our most lightweight and luxurious pieces. Crafted using the latest in textile technology, our Airy Stretch series is silky smooth to the touch and incredibly breathable. With a subtle luster that heightens the style, this range of pieces are a pick for many women who want to bring a touch of elegance to the table.

Highly recommended by our stylists, pair the Biz Sack Dress with a matching jacket for a modern yet comfortable outfit. The dress offers a design and silhouette that is not too loose, not too fitted but still feminine and chic – even for casual occasions!

Cotton Blend

For those who want a soft touch to their clothing and prefer natural fibers, our Cotton Blend series are must-haves. Bringing the wonderful functionality and comfort of cotton, not only are the cotton-blend pieces breathable, they are also stretchy, machine-washable and offer better wrinkle-resistance than cotton-only options.

Enjoy the versatility and comfort of the cotton blend pieces from your business to private life which our kay me staff and stylists also love! We recommend pairing our cotton-blend jackets over your favorite kay me dress or matching with another piece from the same series for a chic look.

With a range of options to help women beat the summer heat, choose any of these series to enjoy better cooler comfort any day of the week.

Celebrating Ohanami in Japan

Known for their four distinct seasons, Japan celebrates each seasonal passing by observing nature closely. One of the most popular seasons for tourists to visit Japan is during the springtime when the cherry blossom trees bloom. This magnificent scene has become one of the most popular symbols that Japan is known by. Like tourists, native people of Japan also hold cherry blossoms close to their hearts and celebrate the blooms each year by holding ‘ohanami’, or cherry blossom viewing, events. During ohanami, people gather under blooming cherry blossom trees and enjoy a small potluck-style banquet full of delicious food and drinks.

There are many ways to safely celebrate cherry blossom season this year, including staying home and having your own personal Ohanami! Here are a few ways people in Japan are celebrating this cherry blossom season.

Sakura Mochi

Sakura Mochi

A popular way to celebrate cherry blossom season in Japan is indulging in sakura-themed desserts! From macarons to doughnuts, well-known western desserts are infused with sakura flavoring and arranged to look like soft pink petals. For a more traditional taste, we recommend trying sakura mochi, a wagashi enjoyed in the spring that consists of red bean paste wrapped in pink mochi, enveloped in pickled cherry blossom leaves. This cultural dessert can be easily recreated at home, and is a popular pastime that is enjoyed by families, especially with young children. When making these traditional sweets with family or friends, we recommend wearing something comfortable, easy to wash and wear in and out the house, like our new Stretch Air Denim Pants, paired with your favorite top!

Yozakura

The different stages of a sakura bonsai tree in bloom

This spring, a popular trend that can be observed at many flower shops across Japan is the increased demand of “personal” sakura trees, which come in the form of branches or even small bonsai trees. This new trend, called ‘ouchi hanami’ (ouchi=home) is exactly how it sounds! Many people in Japan decorate their homes with these sakura trees and have small banquets with people within their home, or even by themselves.

Another tradition that comes with cherry blossom season is Yozakura, meaning night sakura. During the season, many gardens and parks illuminate special pathways for people to observe the sakura trees during the night. This magical and romantic sight is most popular to visit amongst couples of all ages. Like ouchi hanami, another trend on the rise is ouchi yozakura. Many couples are choosing to celebrate at home and having an indoor date night surrounded by softly illuminated cherry blossoms, complete with delicious food and drinks, and dressing up for the occasion. When dressing for your yozakura date, we recommend wearing a charming floral print dress to match the theme, like our Red Aroma Andalusia with its striking red and blue colors to complement the backdrop. Pair with a White Knit Bolero to dress up the style and soften the print!

Celebrate in Pink!

Cherry blossoms may not be available in certain areas, but that does not mean that the season cannot be celebrated. By simply incorporating sakura-colored items with your favorite outfits, you can bring this special season to those around you! For the full effect, wrap yourself in our Lavender Flight Dress. Perfect to wear out on a walk or to relax in at home, with a soft pink floral print that encapsulates the spring mood.

Or for a subtle pop of fresh spring color, add a few of our favorite sakura-colored items such as the Peach Crew-Neck Cardigan and the Champagne Pink 29 Pocket Wallet Bag. These two items feature the absolute perfect shade of soft pastel pink, much like delicate cherry blossom petals.

As the cherry blossoms bloom, it symbolizes the start of a new chapter along with new challenges. We wish you a safe and beautiful ohanami with these new ideas in mind to start off the season.

For more things pink, see our full range or get some Japanese-style inspiration with our Modern Kimono collection, with all our items made in Japan by our skilled artisans for a piece of Japanese craftsmanship you can take and wear with you.

Explore the Cities: Around kay me’s New Stores

As we approach our 10th anniversary here at kay me, we are thrilled to announce our newest store locations; Nagoya Sakae, Fukuoka, and Hanshin Umeda (Osaka)! With such diverse culture in Japan, each city is incredibly unique whether pertaining to dialect, scenery and landscape, or even specialty dishes. We’d love to take this opportunity to introduce our three new store locations, as well as the unique culture that surrounds them.

Nagoya

Our first store, Nagoya Sakae, debuted on February 24th, and is located inside Nagoya Sakae Mitsukoshi.

Nagoya is most famously known for their rich background in ceramics and textile, which has been said to have existed from the 12th century. Many of these traditional workshops and factories can be toured, and is the perfect location for kay me as it has a vibrant culture centered around traditional Japanese craftsmanship, a quality we strive to introduce to the world through our clothing.

The most iconic landmark of Nagoya is their castle, completed with a 48-meter tall tower and a moat. The tower has been renovated and now houses a museum for tourists to learn about the rich history of Nagoya. The castle is also dressed with Shachihoko, ornate carp statues with the head of a tiger or dragon, which has become a popular symbol many Japanese people know Nagoya by.

Nagoya Castle by Ryunosuke Kikuno

Fukuoka

Our second store newly opening this year is Fukuoka, which will open on March 3rd, located inside of Fukuoka Mitsukoshi.

Fukuoka city at night

Fukuoka is said to be one of Japan’s largest cities, most famous for their resonance with the arts. From gorgeous museums and galleries, to quaint local theatres, the arts surround everyday life in Fukuoka, which can be observed by taking a stroll down any street. With such a deep connection with artistry, we believe that our new store will feel right at home.

Nanzoin Temple from MATCHA

Internationally known for their Reclining Buddha located within the Nanzoin Temple, Fukuoka is also known for their many temples and shrines, which are all surrounded by gorgeous greenery. When visiting Fukuoka, we suggest wearing comfortable shoes, like our Howa Howa Stretch Flats, as these sights will not want to be missed! Not only do they add a chic touch to any outfit, our vegan flats are lightweight, flexible, and feature 10 times more cushioning to ensure day-long comfort. Choose from a selection of 5 different shades and 2 premium-quality vegan materials, with each pair made by artisan shoemakers in Tokyo.

Osaka

Our third location opening on March 10th will be in the Hanshin Umeda Main Building, located in Osaka.

Osaka, the epicenter of the Kansai Region, is best known for its urban downtown scenery. Many historians hypothesize that Osaka was originally to become the capital of Japan rather than Tokyo. Known as the ‘city of water’ with its expansive canals and rivers spanning the area, the landscape made way for communities come together and flourish. Even to today, this bustling metropolitan area still grows, and the busy streets of Dotonbori are beautifully illuminated at night with bright neon signs covering every inch of each building. When visiting Osaka, we highly suggest walking down these streets and giving traditional cuisine, such as okonomiyaki and takoyaki, a try!  

In contrast to the busy metropolitan area, Osaka also offers breathtaking traditional Japanese architecture present in their shrines, temples, and castles. One of the most popular landmarks is the Osaka Castle, which nestles right in the middle of the metropolitan area. The castle is surrounded by parks, gardens, museums, and even a shrine, and makes it the perfect location for an afternoon stroll to escape the urban jungle that surrounds it. With so much variety Osaka has to offer, we hope that our new Hanshin Umeda location will provide a go-to spot for busy women in need of versatile items that can be worn for any occasion.

Around Osaka Castle by note thanun

With so many exciting landmarks to see for all three locations, we highly recommend grabbing a pair of our Howa Howa Stretch Flats with the kay me Soft Hoodie, available in 3 colors and 1 gorgeous floral print. The fluffy fabric is light and airy, and perfect for strolls! The hoodie can be paired with any outfit, including long skirts, for ultimate comfort without compromising style.

This hoodie can be purchased online, or in-store, including our 3 newest locations! Find your closest store on your next trip in Japan and discover more with our comfort-driven items!