Junko Kemi, the woman behind kay me

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INFLUENCED by her grandmother who used to own a kimono shop in Osaka, Japan, Junko Kemi, established kay me, a Japanese clothing brand that specializes in women’s business wear inspired by the traditional kimono design.

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“My grandmother owned a kimono shop in Osaka. She influenced me in establishing kay me,” Kemi shared as one of the speakers during the recent Asean-Japan Women Entrepreneurs’ Linkage Program (AJWELP) held at the Asian Institute of Management in the Philippines.

Kemi explained, “One of the many lessons my grandmother taught me was to do something for others to help them achieve their goals. She used to tell me that the goal of life is not to focus on attaining lovely things for yourself but how you can give to others. That will be your legacy. This customer centric mantra that I learned from my grandmother was essential in my creation of kay me.” She added, “kay me means Kemi, my family name, and ‘me’ symbolizes our customers. That’s why our products are specially made for our customers’ specific needs.”

All products of kay me are 100 percent manufactured by skilled artisans in Japan and over 90 percent of kay me items are made in Tokyo. The motto of kay me is simple—“instant elegance with day-long comfort.” Founder and lead designer, Kemi used to be a marketing consultant working in various organizations including PwC and the Boston Consulting Group, before she launched her own consultancy, maojian works at age 31.

After the Japan March 11, 2011 earthquake, Kemi decided to follow her true passion and founded kay me in 2011 in Ginza, Tokyo. That was also the time when she realized that there is a market for career women across the globe who are looking for suitable, elegant and comfortable work wear that will give them confidence throughout their busy schedule.

“I always wanted to make my own clothes so I developed a brand where I thought of myself as the customer because after studying the market, I learned that there are a lot of busy career women like myself who need comfortable clothes,” she explained. Now, kay me has five stores in Japan and an international web site delivering globally.

For Kemi, joining Asean-Japan Women Entrepreneurs’ Linkage Program for the first time is a privilege and an honor. AJWELP aims at empowering ASEAN women entrepreneurs to build the networks with supporting enterprises, successful women entrepreneurs who can be their mentors and AJWELP peers.

“AJWELP is a unique concept. I learned a lot from this program and networking with other ASEAN and Japan entrepreneurs will give me more opportunities to improve my business while my counterparts can also learn from my experience as a founder and designer of kay me,” explained Kemi.

Although Kemi is a supporter of women empowerment, the young designer also reminded participants that the world comprises 50 percent women and 50 percent men, and that’s why she suggested that the ASEAN-Japan Centre should also launch the same program but with participating men entrepreneurs so that they will learn from the opposite sex.

She also shared how ASEAN women should be open to possibilities and changes. In fact, she has been studying English language for a year now and her company is conducting English lessons with her employees to be able to communicate well with other nationalities.

Kemi is hopeful that with the help of ASEAN-Japan Centre, many dreams of ASEAN women entrepreneurs will be realized. On the other hand, she believes that just like the enduring elegance of the kimono, kay me will endure, expand and evolve to the ever-changing needs of modern women.

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