The Aesthete: Beyond Kai Nakanishi Lim’s Sartorial Style - LA Lives

The tastemaker shares her passion for showcasing local designers’ talents and love for Japanese and Filipino artists’ works.

This is an excerpt from Lifestyle Asia’s May 2023 cover story.

Japanese-Filipina aesthete Kai Nakanishi Lim has shaped a career from her unerring taste. Moreover, her delicate Oriental features and sartorial style have landed in magazine features. In 2020, she and her partner-friends launched The Concierge, which specializes in organizing events for their multibrand clothing store Comme Ci at Rockwell Powerplant Mall. She is also behind Curio, a pop-up operation comprised of novelties, vintage furniture, and antiques.

Kai Nakanishi Lim
Ivory duchess silk peplum top and bookleaf skirt, JOEY SAMSON; Jewelry, JMA JEWELRY; Sandals, FRANCESCO RUSSO

Perfect that she is, Maria Charmaine Kay Nakanishi Lim is a regular person—only better dressed and more polished—juggling between entrepreneurship and family duties. If her life were like a river, the flow would be smooth with no bends, she says. “I’m an easygoing person. An optimist. People say I have a happy disposition. I don’t stress about little things. It takes a lot before I get upset,” says Kai, whose virtue is enduring patience.

Kai Nakanishi Lim
Esperanza dress, TRUDE LIZARES; Earrings, JMA JEWELRY; Tea set, blanket, and pillows, HERMÈS; Picnic basket and silverware, AC+632 | Floral and set design by Ginger Gaddi

The daughter of late Japanese hotelier Kanji Nakanishi and mestiza banker Cristina Tordera, Kai is the youngest of four. As the only girl, she was Daddy’s favorite. When her father was deputy general manager of the Manila Hotel in the ‘80s, she was feted with a birthday party at the Champagne Room, a sophisticated venue for a seven-year-old. Her father was always part of the hotel’s opening team. One of her fondest memories was visiting him at The Palace Hotel in Beijing in the ‘90s when China was in a transition from Communism to a liberal global economy.

Kai was very close to her father who died of throat cancer in 2011 at age 61. She vows that if she ever took up a cause yet again, she would support a cancer advocacy. Her first involvement with charity was also her first job after graduating in political economy at the University of Asia and the Pacific. In the early aughts, she raised funds for the Children’s Hour, an international campaign wherein employees donated an hour’s worth of earnings that would support medical services, a nutrition program, and education for the youth. “Being part of an NGO was something that I wanted to do,” she says.

Kai Nakanishi Lim

Zelda top, VANIA ROMOFF; Art Deco earrings and bracelet, JMA JEWELRY

Her foray into retail in 2011 was borne out of wanting to present local jewelry and home accessories designers alongside unique finds from abroad. Kai and her partner-friends opened Cura V at Rockwell Power Plant Mall. “Back then, there was no social media. It was not easy for designers to reach a wider market. We bridged the gap by being a multi-brand store for local designers,” she says. Since the store space was modest, they organized trunk shows to accommodate designers, art, jewelry, gift items, and plants twice a year at Rockwell. Three years ago, the business partners set up Concierge which features local designers and imported brands.

Read the full cover story by purchasing a copy of the Lifestyle Asia May 2023 magazine via SariSari.shopping or select newsstands in National Bookstore and Fully Booked. Subscribe to the E-Magazine via Readly, Magzter, and Press Reader.

Text MARGE C. ENRIQUEZ

Photos DOM CRUZ

Sittings Editor CANDY DIZON

Art Direction MARC YELLOW

Stylist ROKO ARCEO

Makeup MAYESA DELOS SANTOS

Hair PATTY INOJALES

Shoot Coordination MAE TALAID

Special thanks to floral and set designer Ginger Gaddi.

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