Keiko Suyama is not easy to sum up in a few words. A patron of the arts, she has spent much of her career working as a fashion journalist and brand manager for her own fashion brand, receiving recognition in the official Paris Fashion Week.
After a challenging period, she changed direction by returning to her fundamental interest in beauty. She is now the director of a consulting agency for Japanese cosmetic and lifestyle brands. And as a journalist she publishes on Japanese media a series on beauty developments from around the world.
“My father was a Zen philosopher and my mother a story teller, so I grew up surrounded by Japanese philosophy and aesthetics”, said Keiko.
We caught up with Keiko in her Paris studio. Suyama opened up about her personal wellness journey, what beauty means to her, and how she has achieved a healthy work-life balance by prioritizing mindfulness and wellness.
"Japanese beauty is strongly linked to inner beauty as we believe that our skin reflects our way of life."
STERRE ROSE BEAUTY: YOU USED TO WORK IN FASHION.
HOW DID YOU PIVOT YOUR CAREER INTO BEAUTY?
KEIKO SUYAMA: I established a very avant-garde fashion maison with my fashion designer husband in 2003. We worked from morning until midnight without taking weekend breaks to reach success. It was a very exciting experience because it was my dream, but my body and soul fell apart.
One day, we realized that we were in the world of ego, even though we were doing it for ES (an instinctive desire in psychological terms, which was also part of the brand name and concept). I shifted to wanting to focus on more essential matters, satisfying ES, and enriching people's hearts and lives.
"I shifted to wanting to focus on more essential matters, and enriching people's hearts and lives."
SRB: HAVE YOU ALWAYS HAD A NATURAL CURIOSITY ABOUT BEAUTY, OR DID SOMETHING OR SOMEONE SPARK YOUR INTEREST?
KS: I was raised in Japan in a unique environment, where I was surrounded by Japanese philosophy and aesthetics from an early age. It was also my major study at university. But when I moved to Paris in my twenties, I started working very hard in the fashion industry and when I turned 30 I developed endometrial cancer and had a heavy surgery.
From that time on I returned to my fundamental interest in beauty and became passionate about mixing holistic rituals to create my own beauty and wellness lifestyle.
"I returned to my fundamental interest in beauty, and became passionate about mixing holistic rituals to create my own beauty and wellness lifestyle."
SRB: IN EUROPE, KOREAN (K-BEAUTY) AND JAPANESE BEAUTY (J-BEAUTY) RITUALS HAVE GAINED POPULARITY THESE RECENT YEARS.
HOW DO YOU ANALYZE THE POPULARITY OF ASIAN BEAUTY IN EUROPE?
KS: The increasing popularity of Asian beauty in Europe is linked to the social media development across the world. Asian women started sharing their original skincare routines on Instagram and other social media. The awareness about Asian skincare rituals was raised without the filter of traditional media and international brands.
Europeans understood that the beauty of Asian woman is not only linked to genetics, but that it is a mix of careful gestures such as layering and self-massage, along with innovative and original products like sheet masks, BB and CC creams, cleansing oils, etc..
"Europeans understood that the beauty of Asian woman was not only liked to genetics, but that it is a mix of careful gestures and innovative products."
SRB: WHAT IS THE LINK BETWEEN CLEAN BEAUTY AND J-BEAUTY?
KS: Clean beauty is about using safe ingredients to create transparent beauty formulas that are not harmful for the user while keeping a high efficiency level. Being honest and transparent has always been part of the Japanese beauty culture, because Japanese users are very demanding in terms of efficiency and transparency. When Clean Beauty became a thing, most Japanese beauty brands were already meeting the criteria and those that did not had to shift towards that direction.
"Being honest and transparent has always been part of the Japanese beauty culture."
SRB: WHAT ARE TYPICAL JAPANESE GESTURES IN TERMS OF BEAUTY, WELLNESS AND LIFESTYLE? HOW CAN WE INCORPORATE THESE IN DAILY LIFE?
KS: The typical Japanese gestures in terms of beauty, wellness and lifestyle are mainly linked to self-massage, daily bathing and a healthy diet. There are many benefits for the body but also for the mind if you take the time to meditate while doing so:
-Use your daily skin care time as a special moment to cherish yourself and clear your mind, focus on enjoying the textures and the scents.
-About every day, take 5 minutes to gently massage your face and the areas around to improve blood circulation and soften the skin. It is a great way to wake up in the morning and relax your facial expression in the evening.
-Try to take a 10-15 minutes bath at the end of each day. It warms the body, promotes blood circulation, loosens muscles and sheds fatigue.
-If you can, fave a cup of organic green tea each morning. It is highly concentrated in antioxidants and has various benefits for health and skin beauty.
"Use your daily skin care time as a special moment to cherish yourself and clear your mind, focus on enjoying the textures and the scents."
SRB: WHAT DOES 'BEAUTY' MEAN TO YOU?
WHAT GIVES YOU 'A SENSE OF BEAUTY'?
KS: To me, true beauty is before all about health and behaviour. Health comes with the balance of the mind and the body while beautiful behaviour is linked to attitude: Elegant standing, beautiful speech, kindness and beauty from the heart (compassion for people)... That is true beauty to me.
SRB: WHERE DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF BEAUTY?
KS: The future of beauty is highly linked to wellness. Inner beauty will be increasingly important as we seek holistic beauty products that considers physical, mind and mental health. Regarding the formulations, I think they will become simpler and cleaner, as well as easy to personalize to each individual’s skin. Finally, beauty will be more sustainable as sustainability is a prerequisite as SGD's (Sustainable Development Goals) are a major challenge for all companies.
SRB: WHAT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU LEARNED FROM 2020?
KS: 2020 taught me that I only need the essential to enrich my life and mind. As the world was slowing down, I think our senses sharpened to a more primitive level. I also felt that immunity and good health were of utmost importance, so I started to study illness prevention methods in Kampo (ancient Japanese oriental medicine).
"2020 taught me that I only need the essential to enrich my life and mind."
SRB: HOW DO YOU CREATE WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
KS: I am basically overworked––because work is my life itself! Therefore, I schedule a few moments every day to switch my mind and disconnect from work. I go for a walk everyday after lunch with my dog, and after work I dedicate to my hobbies: reading books, watching films, and playing bass. Playing bass clears my mind, it is like a mindfulness meditation to me.
SRB: WHAT DO YOU ADVICE TO THOSE WHO WANT TO CREATE A MORE BALANCED LIFE?
KS: It is always challenging to balance mind and body, work and personal life. We need to switch our mind and find our own way of mindfulness, whether it is meditation, yoga or other activities (cooking, playing an instrument, etc). It is also necessary not to accumulate too much stress and to release stress regularly. And please, do not compare yourself to others. Remember that you are unique and that your life is paved every moment by every concrete action you decide. And please take good care of your mind and body.