• The Financial District


Ayumi Nishigawa has big dreams to put her fashion expertise and business acumen to work to lift children in the Philippines out of poverty, Kyodo news agency reported.

The 25-year-old, who founded Kobe-based clothing company Coxco Inc. last December, plans to open a free fashion school for Manila's poorest kids that she hopes will prepare them for future jobs in the fashion industry.

Her initial plan was to open a "Coxco Lab" fashion school in September in Quezon City, part of the larger Manila metropolis, where students aged 14 to 20 could learn modeling, design and nail art among other vocations, but the coronavirus pandemic completely disrupted preparations. "I hope to hire graduates of that fashion school at Coxco in the future so that they can get out of poverty and become financially independent," Nishigawa says.

Her story begins with a trip in 2014 to Morocco, where local children wearing filthy clothes inspired an aspiration to do something to help poor kids escape their circumstances. Nishigawa, then a Kobe College student, worked with fellow students in Kyoto and Osaka to organize the first "Dear Me" fashion show in the Philippines' capital Manila in August 2015. The show gave the opportunity to kids from the city's sprawling slums to take center stage. She has continued to hold the shows annually in Manila, and twice in 2016, with the help of clothing companies supporting her socially responsible efforts. "Poverty does exist in Japan, but it is not that visible," Nishigawa said. "I asked myself what I could do (to help) with fashion."

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