We had the good fortune of connecting with Kaori Matsutsuru and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kaori, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
One of the reasons I started my own brand (KAORIFORNIA) was that I had a strong desire to create things. I’ve always been dexterous since I was little and love to create something. I always come up with ideas and immediately start making jewelry and things as I imagined. An idea may come randomly, and I immediately start creating from it. After I moved to LA from Japan, I made a lot of friends. I’ve noticed that many of my friends here are confident. I always wanted become an artist since I was in elementary school but I noticed that I was lacking such confidence for a long time. Even though I like to dance, I couldn’t call myself a dancer. During a time when I pursued singing, though I loved it and would pass an audition for a recording contract in Tokyo, I couldn’t really look at myself as a singer. I had so much passion to become an artist and chase my dream but because of my lack of confidence, I didn’t have the urge to keep it going. I was inspired by the fact that many of my friends around me were confident and shining, no matter what difficulties they faced. When I gave those friends the jewelry I made, they were very happy to wear them, and I remember being very happy to see them as they looked more more glowing with my handmade jewelry. I decided to launch KAORIFORNIA because I wanted to help every woman to shine the way they are, so that her inner self-confidence and charm would be enhanced by wearing KAORIFORNIA jewelry.
What should our readers know about your business?
I was born and raised in Fukuoka, Japan. When I was little, my parents owned multiple businesses and worked 24/7. I didn’t really want to be an owner because I’ve seen how extreme they were working so hard. I was doing all the house keeping work, but now here I am with my own business (laughs). Through out each year, they couldn’t spend time with me and my brother, so they took us abroad as a family trip once or twice a year. They showed us the world from a young age, and every time we went somewhere, they showed us things not only as tourists but also from a business perspective. They’ve always tried to show us top-notch things since we were little. Before I moved to LA, I lived in Vancouver, Canada and worked in the jewelry shop. In my hometown, Fukuoka, I worked in apparel, and in Tokyo I mainly worked in sales and services. So I think all of my cultural background and life experiences reflected in my jewelry designs. That is why I named my brand KAORIFORNIA (Kaori + California.) As a Japanese, I love quality and genuine stuff so I choose to use gemstones and natural wood beads. I am also doing my best to minimize the use or not using plastic materials because I care about the environment. KAORIFORNIA is still a small local lifestyle brand but as it grows I would make it as “a fashionable environment-friendly lifestyle brand.” Our “Healing Spa Bracelets (Essential Oil Diffuser jewelry)” are not only fashionable but also benefits to your mental health and body, starting with using your favorite essential oil. Currently, I am designing necklaces too. The exciting news is KAORIFORNIA is now unisex brand, and starting to designing for the apparel collections too! It took time for me to shape my brand as it is now because when I had a idea of making my own brand, I was in college for theater arts as an acting major. I was studying most of the time and taking opportunities here and there. However becoming an actor and establishing my own brand turned out to be my goal. My path is really just starting. As a foreigner, it was far from easy to start. Fortunately, I had a lot of people who supported me and my vision to make it happen. When I feel down or am having a hard time, many of my friends constantly encouraged me. So I am truly appreciative to those who were there for me. I am also a Buddhist practitioner. The philosophy of Buddhism always helps me as a human being, and I learn how to be undefeated, no matter the circumstances. I believe that it is my mission to contribute in making the world a better place. This brand stands in support for everyone’s happiness and unshakeable confidence, all the while giving hope through doing what I love.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Definitely I would take my best friend to the Arts District/Little Tokyo to see local artists’ works and experience Japanese snacks and stuff. Also Malibu, and Manhattan Beach for relaxing. For outdoor fun, Long Beach for paddling, hiking to the Hollywood Sign, and water fall. For the night time view, Griffith Park is always beautiful to not only visit but see a view of the whole city. For eat, I would take my friend “Totoyama”(in Hollywood) for the fresh delicious sushi, “Creamy Spoon French Bistro”( in Glendale) for the best Benedicts, “&Waffle”( in North Hollywood) for waffles and fried chicken, “Salsa&Beer”( in Van Nuys) for Mexican food. For the cafe, I love “Philz Coffee” and “Urth Cafe”. “Pink Orchid” (in Glendale) for bakery, and “Donut Friend” for delicious non groggy vegan donuts!!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would definitely start with my parents who have been very understanding and supportive in what I do. Also my brother, Ken and Ryan, and my partner, Joel, who are all full of support, and my family members who are watching me from Japan. I also thank my life mentor, President Ikeda. For acting, I would like to thank to Simbi, Andrea, Carolina who pushed me forward, and my friend Mig for constant encouragement. For my brand, I would like shoutout Mikako, Marielle, Ikumi, Yoko, Janelle, and all of my friends who also support my brand.