Oribu Yokota on Cross-Cultural Collaboration


A series in which we show up to the studios and workspaces of our favorite creatives to discuss their cultural contributions in style, art, and design. Oribu Yokota wears the Jefferson 2.0 Liteknit: a new Future Classic slip-on made from a foot-forming, breathable knit.

Oribu Yokota sits on a stool in her studio wearing the Jefferson 2.0 Liteknit in black

Oribu Yokota has a project roster ranging from the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics to a Japanese exhibit which served as iconic minimalist brand Muji’s first touch-point to Vancouver. She’s carved out a role which can only be defined as cultural curation, connecting the world through meaningful collaboration and partnerships. Co-run with her husband, Antonio, who leads the design, Yokota’s agency 3x9 (three by nine) takes her all around the world, with each stop adding to her global mindset and eclectic viewpoint.

On working in 6 cities already this year and what she takes away from each:

How I split my time varies year by year. So far this year I’ve been in Tokyo, Pyeongchang, Hong Kong, Thailand, New York, and Vancouver. On the horizon it’s looking like more of Tokyo and New York as well as LA, Mexico, Austria, and Hungary. I definitely do not have a favourite and they all feed me in different ways. Vancouver heals my soul mentally and physically. Tokyo brings me back to my roots and inspires me in new ways every time. New York keeps me on my toes and slaps me in the face from time to time. New countries I’ve never been to excite and inspire me. Different projects bring me to all these places and I’m so grateful. Some visits are more personal but I am always technically working as seeing different markets and cultures is a huge part of my personal and professional growth. I guess you can say I’m continually scouting.

Oribu Yokota’s studio showing a large light and a cactus sign
The Jefferson 2.0 Liteknit resting on a zebra print stool

On making an office out of anywhere:

I work in different time zones so my day is all over the place. Depending on where the project is my work can begin at night and can go until the wee hours of the morning. I will wake up at 3am to have a conference call with Tokyo if needed. Sometimes I am working in a client’s space, the next day I could be in a hotel room, and the next day I could be taking a call with my son in the car.

On what a project at an “environmental and visual creative agency” looks like:

We are creating, curating, and connecting cultures. That can be in the form of a physical space, a person to person introduction, or even building a team across cultures in different countries in order to complete a project. Unlike other companies, we look at each project as an individual culture and create teams specifically for it.

Oribu Yokota sifting through projects in her studio

On what their projects with the Olympics, Alife, Rennie Gallery, Hootsuite, and many exhibits all share in common:

Whether it’s an exhibit, event, workspace, business, project, brand or product; everything we do needs to have a culture and a thoughtful intention. Without either, I don’t think they (projects, environments, or even humans) can survive. It wouldn’t have any soul. Antonio and I work on projects together and individually, but culture and intention are values we share as a couple, co-workers, and parents.

On curating a Japanese pop-up, which introduced Muji to Vancouver:

Prior to Muji opening their first store in Vancouver, I had heard from a friend in Japan that they were looking into coming here. A client was interested in curating an exhibit around Japan, so I approached them to see if they would be involved in a pop-up. A couple of other brands I brought in were Beams Japan and Sakurai Japanese Tea Experience. The pop-up was hugely successful and they opened two stores in the city.

On the most treasured items collected along her travels:

Man. This is a hard one. Crystals, shoes and as cheesy as it sounds, the energy and wisdom of the people I meet. Those connections really feed me.

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The Jefferson 2.0 Liteknit from behind on a checkered floor
Oribu Yokota smiling and leaning against a vintage bar