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

NEXT (New Zealand) - - Contents - Jy­oti Morn­ingstar FOUNDER OF A FASH­ION YOGA BRAND

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.”


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.


“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.


“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.”


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