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‘Each place I have ever lived has helped shape who I am.’
Gems in this
Juliana Rudell Di Simone is a native of Brazil who lives and works in Los Angeles. She is the director of tokyobike in the Americas, an independent brand from Yanaka, Japan, designed around the concept of 'Tokyo Slow', emphasizing comfort over speed.
Juliana first introduced the brand in New York with her husband Dean and tokyobike founder Ichiro Kanai. After six years in NYC, she is now based in LA and helping make bicycle culture part of the city's transport future. We spoke to Juliana about how LA inspires her, inside tips on downtown culture and getting around on two wheels.
On where you’re from
On where you’ve lived around the globe
I have moved around quite a bit. My first living experience abroad was Shrewsbury, UK, where I went to boarding school. I then lived in London for most of my adult life but also Poitiers, France, for my master’s degree, Milan and Paris for modelling, and New York for about six years before moving to Los Angeles.
On moving to the USA
Work mostly, but also this hunger I had to one day live in New York City.
On your relationship with LA
Simply, love. I love everything about Los Angeles: the weather, the outdoor living, the produce, the improved quality of life, the creative energy… I can keep going for days. Now, if I had to pick my very favorite thing about LA, that would be the food. The flavors that have been coming out of LA’s restaurants are simply mind-blowing and I honestly don’t think there’s another place in the US right now — may I say the world? — experimenting in the same way chefs in LA have been.
On how new cultures inspire you
From the languages I speak to the colors in my wardrobe, each place I have ever lived has helped shape who I am, the flavors I enjoy, the architecture, design and fashion I love.
On the inspiration for introducing tokyobike in America
I knew of tokyobike when I lived in London — I lived right around the corner from our Shoreditch store for years and admired the ever-changing window display every day on my way to work. Bicycles were not a part of my life then. I was terrified of riding a bicycle anywhere that wasn’t a park or an incredibly quiet street — I laugh at myself now when I think of how free I feel on a bicycle and how there are no routes I wouldn’t take. But it wasn’t until I moved to New York and met my husband, Dean Di Simone, that I actually got involved with the brand. Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for bringing tokyobike to the Americas, as that was a vision my husband and our business partner, tokyobike founder Ichiro Kanai, had. At the time however, I was transitioning careers and what was supposed to be ‘help at the pop-up’ (we first launched tokyobike in the US with a pop-up, that then became a permanent store, in New York’s Soho) turned into a full-time love affair. I now run tokyobike in the Americas, and while the vision of bringing it here wasn’t mine, I have been leading the path of what the brand has become here — spearheading our partnerships, marketing, branding and all other aspects of what you see.
‘I love everything about Los Angeles: the weather, the outdoor living, the produce, the improved quality of life, the creative energy… I can keep going for days. Now, if I had to pick my very favorite thing about LA, that would be the food.’
On cycling culture in New York and Los Angeles
They are completely different. The New York Times released an article a few years back saying New York was, at the time, the US city with the largest number of bicycle commuters, and when you are crossing the Manhattan Bridge or standing on Prince Street at 8am, you really understand what that means. New Yorkers are becoming more and more free of traditional transportation, and it was incredibly refreshing watching the changes as they happened.
As for LA, I can probably count bicycle commuters on one hand on my way to work and back. Los Angeles is simply too spread out, and most commutes are too long for a bicycle. That said, LA has been investing tremendously in infrastructure to take us out of cars and into other means of transportation. This includes a variety of channels that will take you from point A to point B. For example, many people I know ride a bike to the train station, lock their bicycle in the train carriage (yes, LA trains have those!) and then ride from the closest station to their final destination. Seems like a lot of work, but if you’re commuting from east to west, or any other direction that can keep you in traffic for longer than an hour, this is definitely the quickest option.
Now what really is amazing about LA cyclists is this acknowledgment that happens between those of us that are out there, and it is truly heartwarming. Every time I am riding my bike and go by another cyclist, there is always a smile, a wave or a hello. I have ridden bikes all over the world and have never experienced this anywhere else. It’s almost a way of saying, ‘We are in this together!’ On the weekend though, the number of road and mountain bikes — in addition to beach cruisers — on the streets is tremendous. It’s something that gets me, an owner of a bicycle company, inspired and hopeful that one day we’ll all be riding our bikes and leaving our cars for those amazing and long road trips.
On the tokyobike design and ‘Tokyo Slow’
The minimalistic aesthetic and color range are very strong features for tokyobike. That said, the concept and lifestyle around the brand is something people are responding to incredibly well. Our concept of taking it slow and appreciating all things around you is getting great response from customers. With customers looking for more unique brands, and especially not gigantic corporations, our customers understand and appreciate what comes with an independently owned brand — attention to detail, high quality and small productions, but above all, thoughtful customer interaction.
On recent projects
We just launched a brand new website and URL: we are now tokyobike.us. This was a huge project and probably the most challenging one for me. Coming directly to our stores has always been something that cannot be recreated in any other way, hence we have been focusing on flagship locations around the world, and are likely the first bicycle brand to think that way. But we can’t be everywhere — it would not only go against our ideals of being small and exclusive, but the world is also pretty big! So, translating that thought of, ‘This is the most beautiful bike shop I’ve ever been to,’ to ‘This is the best and easiest bicycle purchase experience I’ve ever had,’ from the comfort of your couch was one of my main goals for the brand in 2018. I am really proud of what our team was able to pull off. We’re also launching two very special collaborations before the end of the year, one of them being with Fulcrum Coffee from Seattle, a brand that has great alignment with tokyobike and what we believe in.
‘I, like everyone around me, worry about our future generations and hope that, by then, the air we breathe is cleaner and we’re more conscious human beings about not only what we eat or spend our money on, but also the way we move around.’
On LA bicycle culture in the year 2030
I hope bicycles are more integrated in our everyday life and lifestyle. Riding a bicycle is one of the more environmentally friendly actions we can all partake in. I, like everyone around me, worry about our future generations and hope that, by then, the air we breathe is cleaner and we’re more conscious human beings about not only what we eat or spend our money on, but also the way we move around.
On a good LA bike ride
I love riding a bike Downtown. It’s the easiest way to move around, grab lunch, coffee, a few galleries and museum stops.
On getting to know the city
Grab The LA Times 101 Best Restaurants list by the late Jonathan Gold and explore neighborhoods through food. Find his recommendations, explore these areas and finish with probably the best meal of your life. It breaks my heart that there won’t be a new list again, but 2018’s list was so delicious that I think it will be forever appreciated.
On a place to be inspired
Again, Downtown. The change that is happening is unbelievable. It also has a very strong creative energy at the moment, which keeps me going and excited about the future.
On whether you need a fix of anything from Brazil in LA
Yes! I am still searching for the best pão de queijo in LA — recommendations accepted! — but I can get picanha from my local butcher and that is the best thing a Brazilian can ask for.
On good food
Bestia is most likely my favorite restaurant in LA.
On good coffee
PCP is probably the best and prettiest coffee shop in Downtown LA.
On a gallery to check out
So many Downtown, but definitely worth checking Hauser & Wirth (and getting a bite at Manuela!) and The Broad.
On good people watching
ROW DTLA – during the week I love watching all the creatives that work here, and on the weekend the crowds that come with Smorgasburg.
On window seat or aisle
On Los Angeles in one word