CHIKA KOTAJIMA. Dress to Seriously Impress.CHIKA KOTAJIMA. Dress to Seriously Impress.

Larissa

Chika Kotajima has a tailor shop at Ginza and that’s a statement for Tokyo. Ginza is the quintessence of success in business, attracting high-income, posh, clientele, in other words, it is a strong marketing move. “I don’t do advertising, because Ginza customers bring more Ginza customers, people to people”, – shares Chika.

Chika Kotajima
Chika Kotajima

She welcomes her clients personally with a charming smile, and a traditional bow. Having wore business suits for most of my life, I felt seriously underdressed coming to an interview in ragged jeans. Well, travelling for a year might wear jeans out?

It has been 2 years already as Chika had quit her 4 years job with the recruitment company and started a business of fashion for working women. She says those two are connected.

Chika Kotajima has a tailor shop at Ginza and that’s a statement for Tokyo. Ginza is the quintessence of success in business, attracting high-income, posh, clientele, in other words, it is a strong marketing move. “I don’t do advertising, because Ginza customers bring more Ginza customers, people to people”, – shares Chika.

Chika Kotajima
Chika Kotajima

She welcomes her clients personally with a charming smile, and a traditional bow. Having wore business suits for most of my life, I felt seriously underdressed coming to an interview in ragged jeans. Well, travelling for a year might wear jeans out?

It has been 2 years already as Chika had quit her 4 years job with the recruitment company and started a business of fashion for working women. She says those two are connected.Who could imagine?

“When I was talking to my clients in recruitment about the kind of employees they wanted. And if the technical skills and a career path could be described in the resume, they were always judging people by what they wear for the interview. Because that is the first impression and it is important. I knew that and it was reconfirmed”, – says Chika about her insights.

 DSC00404

Chika has studied Human Resource management, sociology and politics in England, following the parents’ “recommendation” of getting a “decent” degree and a job. Though fashion has always been important to her, “to decorate life”, as describes it, and on weekends, without much disclosure, she was taking short courses at the Fashion College of London, was attending fashion shows, and that was when she discovered that she really fancied people in good suits.

After coming back to Japan and working for Robert Walters recruitment company, she has also realized that there are no good suits for women: “I could buy some cheap ones, but would look like a student hunting for a job”, Chika says, “I once went to male tailor for a suit for myself, but didn’t like the fitting, the fabrics. There were so many shops and tailors for men in Japan, but none for women”.

Nowadays, especially in Japan, men dominate the business world and I wanted to help women to build career, which is being difficult for them so far, by using both my HR skills and fashion. I believe Japanese women sometimes lack the knowledge about how to dress for success. They might wear too “kawai”, fluffy, cute clothes and that puts a wrong impression on dealing or even competing with men”, – Chika explains her idea. 

The day Chika realized there is a business niche, she quit her job.

I thought it is a business chance and nobody is doing it. I need to make it fast”, – she laughs about her straightforward decision. “I was never in apparel or management before… But I was quite sure I could do this”.

“It was that I wanted”, – Chika further explains her rapid decision, “It was connected with fashion, consulting, business, sales. With the experience in Robert Walters I had the knowledge about the market, industries and knowing that I could tell what you need to wear”.

She quit her job, took 1 month to prepare a business plan and only then revealed to her family the idea, which they supported, and in another 2 months a “Lily Lapis Lazuli” brand appeared in Ginza.  Chika decided to name her brand “Lily Lapis Lazuli”: Lily is her mother’s birthday flower, and Lapis Lazuli is her father’s birthday stone.

DSC00446

Chika’s youthfully joyful personality so strongly comes across that you may not resist but surrender. “Yes, it is my bubbly personality, but I am way happier now. This business is ‘shiny’ and colorful, and it makes my life colorful”, she says cheering, “I owe this to my mom”, she adds.

I was fascinated and touched to hear that one of the motivations for Chika to do business is to help her mother whom she deeply adores for everything she has done for the family. Chika’s father established a small road maintenance company, and 10 years later had a stroke which paralyzed him. Her mother, who was a housewife then decided that if she didn’t take over, 40 families would had been left without jobs and money.

 “It was very difficult for my mom to deal with all road workers, most of them did not really have manners, to take care of dad, of me and a sister. She didn’t sleep because road maintenance is a night job, she also had to study about civil engineering a lot, she knew nothing about it”, – Chika dwells into the family history, “I feel deep gratitude and admiration for my mom. By watching her I learned how to live day by day importantly, and make people happy, think for them”.

“People have will and power to accomplish things if they do it for somebody”

 “I am doing my work for my customers, and for my mother, who wants to see me smiling, and I am doing my best”, – opens up Chika. “My dream is to make many women happy and smiling too”.

DSC00402

Looking at her I would never have thought it is difficult to succeed for a woman in Japan, neither she thinks so: “It’s all a mindset. I never thought it is difficult”. The mindset of Chika also puts no pressure on getting married, but she rather wants children. She plans to grow her business by helping Japanese women succeed.

Her social thriving kicks in too. She is very active in organizing charity fashion shows, and also she purchases fabrics from producers which support Fukushima recovery plan.

Chika’s story inspired me on many levels. I guess it might give a hint or a sense of direction to those, who see a business acumen in themselves. Chika’s character is an undeniable asset, but her approach in helping other women succeed, with the help of her talents deserves noting. Throughout conversation it was interesting to see how structured and tenacious her mind is, shrewd to ideas, focused on opportunities, fast in decision making. Positive personality paired with business sharpness based on social agenda and embodied in charming lady… a killing combination.

After conversing with her for 2 hours I felt as vibrant and energized, and it perfectly suited her goal of making more women happy and smiling, I thought.

Few Tips From Chika Kotajima on How to Dress for a Business Woman:

  • If you work in banking/real estate/ industry, and you make corporate sales you would rather wear a dark grey, navy or black, suit:

DSC00379 

  • Round collar is there because if you want to do business with men, they want you to look feminine too.
The wider the collar is, the more mature you will look
The wider the collar is, the more mature you will look
  • But in the real estate for private clients in Japan where housing is very expensive, you would want wearing a more comforting suit, but with luxurious fabric, to give the right impression of competency and wealth.

DSC00390 

  • For dinners with clients change into something more “happy”, to make the atmosphere for relaxed, pleasant conversation. 
  • Generally, dark color suits give an impression of being very serious.
  • Thick fabrics would tell that you are “older” or “more experienced”.
  • Thinner fabrics suit better young people.
  • For women wearing skirts is a beautiful feminine touch, but if you are about to have a tough negotiations with men, wear pants instead. In Japan particularly, men tend to look down to women wearing skirts to office, considering it to be “not serious”, and sometimes may not even do business because of that.
Ginza district, Tokyo
Ginza district, Tokyo
My rugged jeans
My rugged jeans

Larissa Pak for 30UP.org, Tokyo, Japan

March 2014Who could imagine?

“When I was talking to my clients in recruitment about the kind of employees they wanted. And if the technical skills and a career path could be described in the resume, they were always judging people by what they wear for the interview. Because that is the first impression and it is important. I knew that and it was reconfirmed”, – says Chika about her insights.

 DSC00404

Chika has studied Human Resource management, sociology and politics in England, following the parents’ “recommendation” of getting a “decent” degree and a job. Though fashion has always been important to her, “to decorate life”, as describes it, and on weekends, without much disclosure, she was taking short courses at the Fashion College of London, was attending fashion shows, and that was when she discovered that she really fancied people in good suits.

After coming back to Japan and working for Robert Walters recruitment company, she has also realized that there are no good suits for women: “I could buy some cheap ones, but would look like a student hunting for a job”, Chika says, “I once went to male tailor for a suit for myself, but didn’t like the fitting, the fabrics. There were so many shops and tailors for men in Japan, but none for women”.

Nowadays, especially in Japan, men dominate the business world and I wanted to help women to build career, which is being difficult for them so far, by using both my HR skills and fashion. I believe Japanese women sometimes lack the knowledge about how to dress for success. They might wear too “kawai”, fluffy, cute clothes and that puts a wrong impression on dealing or even competing with men”, – Chika explains her idea. 

The day Chika realized there is a business niche, she quit her job.

I thought it is a business chance and nobody is doing it. I need to make it fast”, – she laughs about her straightforward decision. “I was never in apparel or management before… But I was quite sure I could do this”.

“It was that I wanted”, – Chika further explains her rapid decision, “It was connected with fashion, consulting, business, sales. With the experience in Robert Walters I had the knowledge about the market, industries and knowing that I could tell what you need to wear”.

She quit her job, took 1 month to prepare a business plan and only then revealed to her family the idea, which they supported, and in another 2 months a “Lily Lapis Lazuli” brand appeared in Ginza.  Chika decided to name her brand “Lily Lapis Lazuli”: Lily is her mother’s birthday flower, and Lapis Lazuli is her father’s birthday stone.

DSC00446

Chika’s youthfully joyful personality so strongly comes across that you may not resist but surrender. “Yes, it is my bubbly personality, but I am way happier now. This business is ‘shiny’ and colorful, and it makes my life colorful”, she says cheering, “I owe this to my mom”, she adds.

I was fascinated and touched to hear that one of the motivations for Chika to do business is to help her mother whom she deeply adores for everything she has done for the family. Chika’s father established a small road maintenance company, and 10 years later had a stroke which paralyzed him. Her mother, who was a housewife then decided that if she didn’t take over, 40 families would had been left without jobs and money.

 “It was very difficult for my mom to deal with all road workers, most of them did not really have manners, to take care of dad, of me and a sister. She didn’t sleep because road maintenance is a night job, she also had to study about civil engineering a lot, she knew nothing about it”, – Chika dwells into the family history, “I feel deep gratitude and admiration for my mom. By watching her I learned how to live day by day importantly, and make people happy, think for them”.

“People have will and power to accomplish things if they do it for somebody”

 “I am doing my work for my customers, and for my mother, who wants to see me smiling, and I am doing my best”, – opens up Chika. “My dream is to make many women happy and smiling too”.

DSC00402

Looking at her I would never have thought it is difficult to succeed for a woman in Japan, neither she thinks so: “It’s all a mindset. I never thought it is difficult”. The mindset of Chika also puts no pressure on getting married, but she rather wants children. She plans to grow her business by helping Japanese women succeed.

Her social thriving kicks in too. She is very active in organizing charity fashion shows, and also she purchases fabrics from producers which support Fukushima recovery plan.

Chika’s story inspired me on many levels. I guess it might give a hint or a sense of direction to those, who see a business acumen in themselves. Chika’s character is an undeniable asset, but her approach in helping other women succeed, with the help of her talents deserves noting. Throughout conversation it was interesting to see how structured and tenacious her mind is, shrewd to ideas, focused on opportunities, fast in decision making. Positive personality paired with business sharpness based on social agenda and embodied in charming lady… a killing combination.

After conversing with her for 2 hours I felt as vibrant and energized, and it perfectly suited her goal of making more women happy and smiling, I thought.

Few Tips From Chika Kotajima on How to Dress for a Business Woman:

  • If you work in banking/real estate/ industry, and you make corporate sales you would rather wear a dark grey, navy or black, suit:

DSC00379

  • Round collar is there because if you want to do business with men, they want you to look feminine too.
The wider the collar is, the more mature you will look
The wider the collar is, the more mature you will look
  • But in the real estate for private clients in Japan where housing is very expensive, you would want wearing a more comforting suit, but with luxurious fabric, to give the right impression of competency and wealth.

DSC00390

  • For dinners with clients change into something more “happy”, to make the atmosphere for relaxed, pleasant conversation.
  • Generally, dark color suits give an impression of being very serious.
  • Thick fabrics would tell that you are “older” or “more experienced”.
  • Thinner fabrics suit better young people.
  • For women wearing skirts is a beautiful feminine touch, but if you are about to have a tough negotiations with men, wear pants instead. In Japan particularly, men tend to look down to women wearing skirts to office, considering it to be “not serious”, and sometimes may not even do business because of that.
Ginza district, Tokyo
Ginza district, Tokyo
My rugged jeans
My rugged jeans

Larissa Pak for 30UP.org, Tokyo, Japan

March 2014

  • Саша

    Interesting combination: fashion and HR. Thanks for the story!

  • Jacky Jones

    Been a pleasure to read, you have captured the Chika I admire perfectly, Chika is an amazing young woman, very deserving of all her achievements. Thank you x