LONDON -- "I am very proud that I really did find a wonderful job. I can travel the world with my scissors and comb, and wherever I go not only can I find work, but by making people beautiful I can also give them hopes and dreams," said Yoko Ishii.

As a young woman in Tokyo, Yoko cast around for a career that would enable her to travel. "I did not particularly relish the idea of hairdressing, and at first had no confidence," she said. However, she entered the Yamano Beauty College in Tokyo in 1969, and after training worked in the Aiko Yamano salon in Shinjuku. Despite some opposition at home, in 1972 she took herself off to the salon of Alexandre de Paris in France. Hairdressing had set her in motion.

"Then I went to Rome for an interview, and was lucky enough for two years to work for Alexandre de Paris in Rome. At the same time I acted as interpreter, and became a model in the Vidal Sassoon hair show in Rome," she said. Yoko spoke French and Italian, but worried over the gaps in her languages. In the salon one day a client told her, "When you are going through difficulties you are achieving the most." The client who encouraged her with "those precious words" was the actress Audrey Hepburn.