Event Report: kay me talk show with andu amet’s Hiroko Samejima


Long time kay me blog readers might remember our wonderful interview with andu amet founder Hiroko Samejima.

Hiroko founded andu amet in 2012, a high-end brand specialising in producing luxury handbags made in Ethiopia by locally trained and supported artisans, using quality Ethiopian sheepskin.

kay me stylist Yoko gives us a glimpse into our recent talk show held at our Shinjuku store and members club, with Hiroko in conversation with kay me founder Junko Kemi…


Hi everyone, it’s Yoko from kay me Shinjuku!

Lat month we held a special talk event with andu amet founder Hiroko. Prior to the talk show, andu amet items were on show here at our Shinjuku store and guests could touch for themselves the super soft sheepskin and see all the lovely colours and designs. All the kay me stylists and I were so excited.

For the event, we prepared drinks and nibbles and Junko Kemi even specially selected which wine to serve!

As we don’t use a podium for our talks, the speaker and audience are closer, creating a more connected atmosphere.


Hiroko gave us great insight into working as a founder and manager in Ethiopia and shared a lot of advice.

We received a lot of questions, and time flew by!

As part of the audience, I felt so lucky to hear this talk session between two designs and founders.

I think many people are now considering entrepreneurship!

After the event, Hiroko and Junko both exchanged business cards and networked with the audience, and as a stylist I loved pairing kay me items with andu amet accessories.


Our next session with a new guest speaker will be at the end of March, and I can’t wait!

Until next time… Yoko.

kay me in the media – Japan

As well as a whole host of international media, kay me has also been featured in plenty of domestic Japanese papers and magazines too.

Keep reading for a small taste of kay me’s Japanese media presence…


Nikkei Newspaper

With its professional analysis and deep insight, NIKKEI newspaper is renowned not only in Japan but globally as well.

Encompassing a variety of media and welcoming Financial Times to its group in July 2015, as a leading economic newspaper it has been constantly evolving since it was founded in 1867.

kay me was featured in the newspaper on 29th August 2015 as part of a special issue on business women’s wardrobe, and broadcasted on World Business Satellite in 2016, focusing on our global business expansion.

Women’s New Business Competition

The “Women’s New Business Competition” was launched by Development Bank of Japan Inc., (DBJ) in 2011.

With the core aim of “fostering new business by women as growing business that can make a positive change to society and economy,” DBJ has supported award winners by giving out subsidy for business to realise their business plan.

The founder of kay me, Junko Kemi proudly received “Award for the Best Female Entrepreneur” on 21st June 2016 – visitors to kay me HQ can see this award among others on display in the main office.


WWD Japan

WWD JAPAN, published by INFAS Publications Inc., is the Japanese version of US Fairchild’s WWD (Women’s Wear Daily), a globally-recognised fashion magazine. It is the only fashion weekly magazine in Japan, and shares all the latest information on fashion business and trendy news every week.

kay me was featured on 27th July 2015, including our brand information and introduction to our future business plans.

Seihoku no Kaze

Once a year, Waseda University gives out its PR brochure, “Seihoku no Kaze” (Northwest Wind – named after the location in northwest Tokyo where the university was originally founded) to its graduates.

As well as sharing the news of the year, the brochure also introduces Waseda almuni who are now taking active roles in various fields.

The founder of kay me, Junko Kemi graduated from Waseda University in 2000, founded maojian works Inc., a consulting firm in 2007, and then launched her own fashion brand kay me in 2011.

Junko is on the special list of Waseda graduates in Seihoku no Kaze, published on 1st September 2015.

Seven Questions with… Maki Kado, Representative Director and President, Subsidiary of a Global Beverage Company


Maki Kado: born in Hiroshima, Japan, majored in computer science at Kagawa University in Shikoku, worked as a software engineer, followed by experience in marketing and product licensing, and business management of a major software company in the US and Japan, currently Representative Director and President at a procurement subsidiary of a leading global beverage company in Japan.

With a career history that spans several industries as well having worked in both the US and Japan, Maki Kado has brought her positive outlook with her wherever she is in the world. Combining motherhood and business, and applying lessons learned from these key experiences has seen Maki rise to the top – here she shares with kay me her advice, influences and essentials for herself as a busy women on the go.

What’s keeping you busy these days?

My youngest son, he’s 16 years old, he recently broke both his arms while weight training – he’s got one cast off now, but he still needs a lot of help with everything from feeding to dressing, so it’s almost like having a baby again.

I also love reading historical novels and business books, but my secret is that I always have to read the final chapter first! It sounds a little strange, but I’ve always done it since I was young and I find it helps me to control my emotions. I have a tendency to empathise too strongly, and knowing how the story ends, helps me to stay in control.   

“my desire for change has come from wanting to try something new and challenge myself”


How do you unwind on a day off?

Just last weekend my youngest daughter and I went to the movie theatre together, and we spent the whole day watching multiple films together. Just like with novels, I have to know the ending first, as otherwise I might cry out loud in the cinema! So I checked all the internet articles about those movies and was prepared for Dolly to find out about her family and knowing what our pets do when we are away during the day.

When did you decide you wanted to get into your industry?

I’ve worked in many different industries, and my desire for change has come from wanting to try something new and challenge myself. For example, with my first software job, the security was so tight I couldn’t even tell my family what I was working on – my son asked if I was a spy. That was when I decided to go into a totally different industry so I can explain better to my kids what I do when they are at day care. When I worked as a licensing and product marketing advisor, I loved working for a small company and wearing many hats, and that’s when I became fascinated with business, how the world works and how money goes around. I lived in the US for a while and worked for an international software company, but after the 2011 earthquake in Japan which directly impacted my husband’s relatives, we decided to come back to Japan to be closer to our families. All these changes happened without any stable long term planning, but all turned to be a great experience and are building blocks of where I am today.  I am not sure if I ever thought hard about which industry I would like to get into in the future, but I was and still am open to any new challenges that I will be given.

“Looking back, being a mother has helped me a lot in my professional life – I have been trained on a daily basis to be patient, open minded and always have fun”

Who has been the biggest influence on your life and why?

I married young and I’m a mother of five. As you can imagine, without my husband partnership I could have never been where I am today. He’s my biggest supporter, and he’s the best husband I could ever imagine. I couldn’t operate my daily life not even to mention my career without him.

My parents have been also a big influence to who I am. My mother was a nurse and my father was a business man travelling around the world. It was hard for the whole family for the parents to be juggling their business, travel, and family, but was also shown a great example of how it can work.  I have 2 younger sisters, but I do not think it is a coincidence that they all have a successful professional career and are working mothers.

What has been your most challenging professional experience so far?

There were many incidents and situation where people call them as challenging but to be honest I am not sure if I personally would call them challenging. I have a tendency to stay positive and optimistic, I am not sure if I can pin point any particular situation that has been extremely hard on me.

For example, when I became pregnant with my second son, my commute was about two hours each way and I had to stand in a crowded train, so I decided to find something closer to home. I registered with a temp agency while heavily pregnant, and after I had my son – when I was still in the hospital – they asked me to interview at a major software company. I had happened to wear a dark navy maternity dress so was able to interview that day – I got permission from the doctor and borrowed my husband’s belt, and I went out and got that job. Even in that situation, I did not find pregnancy or having an infant in my arms not as a “challenge” but just another element of life.  Looking back, being a mother has helped me a lot in my professional life – I have been trained on a daily basis to be patient, open minded and always have fun.

“Don’t take things too negatively and seriously, look on the positive side. We were chosen to make history”

What advice would you give someone wanting to get into your industry?

The beverage industry is quite masculine, the percentage of women was only few percent until a couple of years ago, partly due to the nature of the work – carrying heavy boxes of beverage bottles, filling vending machines – you need a lot of muscle power. But recently it’s shifted a little and now is close to getting at 10% range. A woman coming into this industry would need to be prepared that there may be times when she would be uncomfortable once in a while. Don’t take things too negatively and seriously, look on the positive side. We were chosen to make history, and there are not many places that we can do this in such mature industry.

Having said that, most likely things I mentioned are nothing particular to a specific industry.  I have opportunities to connect with leaders in other industries and they say it’s almost the same for anyone anywhere – these recommendations are applicable for being a human, nothing specific to being a female or male, or any industry in specific. I’ve moved among very different industries, from IT to beverages, but the approach and the way of thinking is almost the same anywhere.


What attracted you to kay me?

Actually, here’s a true story: when I wore this dress [Edo Bingata] for the first time and along with day to day usual meetings I went to a doctor’s appointment that day, and he invited me to the opening party of his new clinic. I thought it would be a great opportunity to celebrate and meet people, so I said yes. But it was a formal event at a hotel and if I hadn’t worn this dress I probably would have hesitated or had to go home and change – but I didn’t have to worry, I was able to just say yes!

I think that’s the kind of confidence Junko Kemi was referring to when wearing kay me dresses – you don’t have to be worried about being properly dressed, you don’t need to have any second thoughts. I was able to concentrate on meetings just as a normal routine and also have a chance to be in a big official party right after that without any side concerns even when it was a last minute invitation. In that way it’s impacted my productivity and saved me time by not having to change clothes, and above all, look good while doing so.

I also use this jacket [white bolero] a lot, I wore it on a couple of business trips as I can just open my suitcase and wear it. In London I only brought this jacket with me and washed it in the hotel bathroom. I hung it up overnight and it was ready to wear the next day without any wrinkles.


Maki’s travel essentials:


E-reader: I love reading, so my e-reader has quickly become essential, especially on long flights. I also have a cute sticker with a photo of my youngest daughter.

Mp3 player: When I got this mini mp3 player, I handed it to my son straight away and asked him to download some music for me. It’s really special to me as it’s all songs he chose for me, and I haven’t changed any of them since then. I always listen to his playlists on trains and planes.  He has now moved out of the house and has his own career but I feel as if we are travelling together when I listen to his collection.

Folder: My assistant Makita-san prepares an amazing folder for me when I travel that are full of all the information I need at my fingertips. This one has everything about my last London trip: maps, hotel information, hard copies of travel tickets, and local recommendations too. Business trip and needing to accomplish many things in limited time is already stressful enough, little things like this add up to make the trip effective and productive or not. 

Seven Questions with… Mizue Murai, Owner of Madeline Lapin, Tokyo


Mizue Murai: Born in Yokohama. Enrolled in Tsuji Culinary Institute then attended Brown University in the United States and majored in Visual Art. Worked at JP Morgan and Boston Consulting Group, recently opened a madeleine cake shop, Madeline Lapin, in Jiyugaoka, Tokyo. Mizue is also the author of “Visualisation Makes Things Easy” (Zude Kanngaeruto Subete Matomaru) published by Cross Media Publishing.

Mizue has a unique history: after graduating from high school, she attended Tsuji Culinary Institute and went on to Brown University in the USA, and after graduating university joined JP Morgan. 

“When I started my career, I thought having expertise in both cooking and finance would be really beneficial in the future since there were few people who knew both areas.”

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Seven Questions with… Hiroko Samejima, atelier andu amet CEO and chief designer


Hiroko Samejima: Born in Tokyo. Worked at domestic manufacturer as designer, went to Ethiopia as a member of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV). After returning  to Japan and working as a marketing executive, founded aterlier andu amet ltd. in Japan in 2012, as as plc. in Ethiopia in 2015. Received many awards including the “Women of the Year 2013 (career create category)” from Nikkei Woman and “Changemakers of the Year 2015” from Nikkei Business Online.

Hiroko Samejima founded atelier andu amet in 2012, a high-end brand which produces luxury bags made by local artisans in Ethiopia using quality Ethiopian sheepskin. The first time she went to Ethiopia was when she participated in JOCV as a volunteer:

“I got the basic idea of andu amet when I conducted a fashion show which was a huge success there. They loved the products I designed and local craftsmen made. That’s when it hit me. I thought it was the business model which makes everyone happy. It was totally different from the business of mass production and mass consumption in Japan.”

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Seven Questions with… Janelle Reiko Sasaki, Diversity and Inclusion Services at a Major Auditing Firm, Japan


Janelle Reiko Sasaki: Born in northern California, third generation Japanese family, attended University of California Berkeley, worked at Cisco Systems, currently director of diversity and inclusion services at a major global auditing firm in Japan.

Making an impact takes more than the work of just one person, and to become an influencer requires a lifetime of learning from and collaborating with others. In this new series of features from kay me, we explore the trailblazers and entrepreneurs who go out of their way to achieve their dreams, those who embody kay me’s core values and who have something to teach us all.

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