Born and raised in Osaka, Ryoko Hori, 37, moved to Tokyo to study fashion design at the age of 18. As a student she was lucky enough to work for the famous clothing brand Issey Miyake, but she wanted even more experiences in life. She had never been abroad, so after her graduation in 2003, she decided to move to Paris where she stayed for three years.

"My mind was much more into Europe and its history and culture (than elsewhere), and Paris was a city open to the world," she says over a cup of roasted hōjicha (roasted green tea) in Ryoko, her Berlin shop. "I studied French because I wanted to be part of that society."

When the office of Issey Miyake called and asked her to return to Japan to work for them, Hori thought it was good timing. But going home turned out to be tougher than she imagined. "Especially when coming back from Paris; life in Japan wasn't the same," she recalls. "Nor was being back in the Japanese society."