How three women made their dream jobs happen
A fashion maven, a band tour manager, and a movie buff who spends all day watching films. Sharon Stephenson meets three Kiwi women who turned their passions into a career
It’s hard not to envy Jyoti Morningstar. As the head of fashion yoga brand WE-AR, the 42-year-old spends half the year on Auckland’s Waiheke Island, where she’s just built a house tucked into the bush, and the rest in Bali, where her organic, ethically-produced garments are made. She also spends as much time as possible on the idyllic island of Gili Meno, off the coast of Indonesia, where her Spanish fiancé Enrique owns a hotel and yoga retreat.
“Do I have the dream job?” asks Jyoti, folding her tanned, yoga-honed legs into a chair. “It might not be for everyone, but I love travel and not being in one place all the time. I’m also profoundly grateful for a successful business that’s ethically, ecologically and financially sustainable.” Although she sounds British, Jyoti was born in Auckland to British expats. “They were hippies but my name actually comes from my Anglo-Indian grandmother.”
LOOKING FOR MEANING
Her mother, a yoga teacher, inspired a love of yoga in her children. Jyoti grew up in Whanganui before moving to Wellington to study biological sciences, anthropology and contemporary religion.
“I’ve always had an interest in how people think and find meaning in life. It’s a genuine curiosity that’s been invaluable in business,” she says.
Having inherited her travel gene from her parents, after finishing her degree Jyoti lived in Thailand, India and Australia as well five years in Japan, where she taught English and yoga. Back in Wellington, she opened her own yoga studio, which she ran for two years. But in 2005, Jyoti realised she wanted to help alleviate some of the poverty she’d seen during her travels, so she moved to Auckland to do a Masters in Development Studies. “It wasn’t hands-on enough for me. I dropped out to set up a company that would support those involved but also be founded on the core values of fair trade and sustainability.”
WE-AR, a mash-up of the words ‘we are’ and ‘wear’, seemed the perfect opportunity to marry her love of yoga with fashion.
LEARNING ON THE JOB
“I’ve never trained as a designer but I have a certain aesthetic which seems to appeal. I’ve learned and developed my
design skills along the way.” As with all great business ideas, Jyoti’s fledgling label filled a yawning gap in the market.
A HIT FROM THE GET-GO
“At the time the only activewear you could buy was made from petrochemicals and plastics. I knew there was a gap for earth-friendly active wear that also looked good.”
She began designing not only the garments but also the brightly coloured patterns, and in late 2005, Jyoti took her ideas to Bali. There she formed relationships with family-run producers who still pump out two fashion collections and one activewear range a year.
“That’s about 130 designs a year,” says Jyoti, who still creates all the designs herself. Initially she started wholesaling into stores in the US, Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada, but seven years later she now has six brick-andmortar stores, including two in Auckland and four in Bali. Online sales also account for almost 20% of the label’s turnover.
Although it’s been hard work and more late nights than she can count, Jyoti admits she always knew WE-AR would be a success.
“It had a lot of resonance from the start. I’m so thankful customers understood and appreciated what I was doing.”
Future plans include opening a store in Wellington this year, getting married in September and travelling with her new husband to see his family in Spain.
“I get so inspired by places I haven’t been before. Last year we did a photo shoot in Andalucia and the amazing light and bleachedout colour there has filtered into my current design work. I’m so thankful this business allows me the flexibility to travel and have the kind of lifestyle that feels right for me. It really is my dream job.”
‘I’M SO THANKFUL THIS BUSINESS ALLOWS ME THE KIND OF LIFESTYLE THAT FEELS RIGHT FOR ME’