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The Style Series: Ai Kato

Photo credits: The boots, Sturlini.

Even in the age of social media and oversharing, Ai Kato has miraculously managed to remain largely unseen, though anyone fortunate enough to have made her acquaintance will tell you that the Tokyo-born Parisian is, in fact, one of fashion’s most discerning aesthetes. Currently the Global Creative Director of Aesop, Kato — who has worked for Uniqlo and French maisons alike — prefers a quiet presence, one marked by a uniform of vintage men’s trousers; lace-up, leather boots from Florence; and beautifully cut tailoring. “When I like something I usually try to make sure I have three of them,” she muses. 

Here, Kato shares the secrets behind her exacting style, from her go-to uniform to the wool sweater she won’t travel without.

Read on below.

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Can you tell us about your career path

I was born in Tokyo and educated internationally. I have spent half of my life in France now. I have not always been a designer. My first job out of university in the 90s was software engineer in a robotics laboratory in Tokyo. Do you remember Aibo? I currently work at Aesop as Global Creative Director and run a vegetable shop called YAOYA in the Basque countryside.

How did you become interested in fashion?

I have always been interested in cloth. My mother is an avid quilter and collector, and still teaches quilting in Tokyo. My maternal grandmother was a kimono teacher. The simplicity and complexity of a kimono is a lifetime’s work of study and intrigue. They were clearly my early inspiration.

How would you describe your style?

Consistent and relaxed.

What are your wardrobe essentials?

Levis 501 and denim jacket, black t-shirt, trousers and jackets from Yohji Yamamoto, Birkenstocks, and Sturlini boots. I have great respect for the people at Laines Paysannes, who create sweaters you will wear for a lifetime. Just in the Basque countryside, we discard over 400 tons of wool every year. Laines Paysannes has an incredible approach. Check them out there,

Why are you drawn to vintage?

There are so many gems of the past that can fit seamlessly into your life. Resee makes this easy for everyone. We all need to do our part in creating less waste in this world.

What is your beauty staple?

We don’t need more stuff in our medicine cabinets, but having a good cleanser, toner, hydrator has really made a difference for me. I cleanse my skin with our Gentle Facial Cleansing Milk and add a few drops of Remove to wash away everything. I tone with B and Tea Balancing Toner, essential for us in Paris with such hard water. I treat my skin to a potent vitamin layer called Lucent (cannot live without) and finish with Primose Facial Hydrating Cream (the texture is divine). And each step smells so good...

as told to Zoe Ruffner

Shop Ai's Closet

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