Babes Ride Out

Roll Call | Meet Stetson CEO Izumi Kajimoto

People, Roll CallAshmore Ellis

You'll find her with the rest of the attendees, drink in hand, singing along, and enjoying every second of being in a moment. It is clear that Izumi Kajimoto believes in experience and the importance of being present in all things she does. Her insatiable work ethic has landed her high level jobs with fashion industry's most innovative brands like Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, and now to her role as CEO of Stetson. We got a chance to sit down with Izumi and ask her about how she got started, what she has learned along the way (good & bad), and how she ultimately became the boss she is today. Ladies, if you need a little inspiration on life and career, this one is dedicated to you.

Izumi Kajimoto

 Location: NEW YORK CITY
Where are you from? Japan and New Jersey.

I was born in Osaka, Japan.  A few years later my father was transferred to NY and that started my life here.  

We were going back and forth a bit so I ended up completely bilingual and pretty bicultural.  I think I was always more interested in the world itself than my place in it.  So my true identify became: OBSERVER.  And I'm proud to still be one.   

Partly because of that - a voracious curiosity - I did very well academically and I went to ridiculously good schools. My parents were young but they were typical conservative Japanese parents, which most non-Japanese don't realize means that as long as I did well in school they really didn't want to know about anything else I did.  And as I was so interested in the world, I got into a lot of things.  So I think I organically acquired a lot of contradictions: nerdy straight A's music geek + rock n' roll crazed club kid +introverted Japanese overachiever + Jersey Girl = ME! 

Somehow I avoided getting into irrecoverable trouble and made it to early adulthood relatively unscathed. 

Tell us about how you got started in your career path:
Totally passively.  I had always planned to be an author.  Halfway through grad school at Columbia University I had a panic attack that I was not cut out to risk starving for my art, I needed a grown up job!!! So, at the suggestion of my father - my parents had moved back to Japan by then - I took off for Tokyo and landed a job in the international planning division of a major Japanese department store.  This led to a job back in NY with Polo Ralph Lauren.  Since that long-ago time I have worked for Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, among others, before landing this, the best – I mean it! - position at Stetson. I think my lifelong fascination with people and what motivates them to objects of desire and memorable experiences have made me useful to these companies and kept me totally passionate about what I do.

Any rough lessons you learned?
There will always be sucky stuff that you cannot control. But if you are always being true to your own passions you will eventually learn which of the sucky stuff is truly out of your control and you should not waste time worrying about.  This is a rough lesson because I am still learning it. 
What inspires you in your career?
Human contact. Connecting with people working hard for things they love and believe in. Because the skill set needed for my career entails knowing a little bit about everything, I am always blown away by people who know everything about something.  I find [insert your particular passion here] geeks to be the most inspiring and attractive people. 
What is it like to be in charge of Stetson?
It's a lot of responsibility that I take very seriously.  Stetson is 151 years old this year.  It represents a founder's vision and the care and passion of his many successors. We are custodians of an American icon that continues to inspire the imagination of the world. 

And it is FUN. The most important aspect of our business are our customers and fans.  We have to meet and exceed their expectations, providing something very important: a moment of happiness and self-satisfaction.  It’s the opportunity to observe people in these moments of happiness that is the best part of the job. How can this not be fun?

What advice would you give other women out there on career? Anything you learned that is universal to success?

I can only measure “success in career” in terms of happiness and satisfaction so here it is, in that sense:  The best job is one where you don’t stop learning something new.  And you will always be learning something new if you keep your mind and ears open.  Sounds too simple, but the most basic truths often do.  I would add that it is also very important to listen to YOURSELF.  Sometimes you need to quiet the other noises to hear what you are really thinking and feeling.
 What are your goals?
The most important goal covers both professional and personal: to pay it forward.  I don't want to sound like some wise old thing full of knowledge and experience. But I am here to try to answer any question I can.  If I don't have an answer  I'm happy to be a small inspiration by just BEING - I'm an awkward late bloomer, sometimes distracted by the wonders of the earth too much to focus on whatever it is that responsible adults are supposed to be doing - yet I think I turned out alright. Don't sweat the risk analysis, "regret" is a concept you can massage out of yourself.  Don't waste time feeling guilty, devote your time to FEELING. 
How did you first hear about Babes Ride Out?

About a year ago, Daryl, our marketing manager, came to me with a proposal for Stetson to take part in the third annual BRO in Joshua Tree.  I always loved motorcycles (this might be a Japanese thing) and was fascinated by the idea of a thousand and some women getting together in the gorgeous California desert.  It really was more than I had expected, I was especially impressed by the natural, easy way so many diverse people were interacting and bonding.  
Got a favorite hat?
Whatever is on my head right now.  Seriously, I have many hats, which means anyone can wear any number of hats and feel cool, attractive and comfortable.  

We can't wait to have Izumi and Stetson back at Babes Ride Out 4. This marks Stetson's 4th event with Babes Ride Out and we are beyond thankful to have them involved in the women's motorcycle community. If you are attending BRO UK, they have some goods waiting for you on site. If not, make sure to come by and see them at Babes Ride Out 4 Oct 20-23th in Joshua Tree, CA.