My Swedish Career

‘I’m spreading Japan’s ‘cute’ culture in Sweden’

'I'm spreading Japan's 'cute' culture in Sweden'
Carolynn Piittisjärvi (right) together with business partner Eva Dejmo in their pop up store. Photo: Private
For this week’s My Swedish Career we meet American Carolynn Piittisjärvi, an entrepreneur who has already managed to turn several hobbies into Swedish businesses. She has just launched a store selling Japanese clothes, toys and stationary in the hope of spreading ‘kawaii’.

Striving for happiness and driven by a strong motivation to achieve it, Texas-born Carolynn Piittisjärvi has accumulated a variety of hobbies over the years. While others might shy away from turning their interests into work, Piittisjärvi embraces the idea.

“I have a ton of different passions and hobbies. What sets me apart is that I always act on [these], instead of just letting it be,” she tells The Local.

Piittisjärvi moved to Sweden almost six years ago after meeting her now-husband through a multiplayer online game. She already runs a successful dog daycare business – Hundstjärnan (The Dog Star) – and her latest project is a pop up store, Cute Story Shop, in central Gothenburg.

Having had an interest in all things Japanese since the age of ten, Piittisjärvi and her business partner are selling ‘kawaii’ merchandize for the month of November, which recently got extended until mid-December.

‘Kawaii’ is a Japanese word and concept that means lovable, cute, or adorable. Character-based goods are core elements of ‘kawaii’ (Hello Kitty being an example).

“Japanese life evolves around work, so they try to find small, simple, cute things in life around them – it’s an escape. My goal is to spread these cute character goods to Sweden.”

Japanese character goods
Kawaii stationary sold at the Piittisjärvi's pop up store, Cute Story Shop. Photo: Private

Piittisjärvi appreciates Swedes’ reluctancy to deviate from the norm but argues that encouraging a greater variety of shopping and lifestyle choices is a good start.

“When it comes to fashion and goods, Swedes wouldn’t buy a toy just because it looks cute – they want to make sure it matches their life as a whole…”

“You’ll find the plain notebooks but you don’t really get another option either. There’s definitely a gap in the market and I know this can be successful,” she says.

Wanting to make Japanese culture more accessible, Piittisjärvi also hopes to show that Japanese style can be adapted to fit any closet. Her shop also sells Lolita fashion – based on a Japanese subculture that champions Victorian-style clothing.

The Cute Story Shop has already generated a lot of curiosity despite its temporary status. It is currently set to close on December 14th but Piittisjärvi hopes to reopen it again in the springtime. By then, she will have tested the concept further through an online shop she hopes to set up and manage from home.

She is clearly a woman who knows what she wants.

“I always have Plan Bs and Plan Cs. If it makes sense, just go for it. I have a strong motivation for doing what makes me happy. If something doesn’t, then I walk away from it. My goal is my job – happiness – and spreading it.”

Mimmi Nilsson

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