Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Interview with Kimura U - Kawaii Ambassador of Japan

Kimura U

KimuraU_tckp__by_David-Pleszak_Visual-KEIOSVKEIOS: Hello Kimura U, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. To begin, could you tell us how long have you been interested in the fashion industry?

Kimura U: Actually I used to be a singer in a band, and one day our band leader told me that we should make and sell stuff to finance our band. I spent a few hard nights, crying, and doing my best to craft Harajuku style accessories to sell them at our concerts. That would be my first step in the world of fashion. Somehow these items became more popular than our CDs, and sold like hotcakes. They got picked up by magazines and even TV shows and with the all the attention I was getting, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs chose me to represent Harajuku's fashion as their “kawaii ambassador” !

VKEIOS: Your hometown is Saitama Prefecture, how would you describe the fashion scene in that area?

Kimura U: Well, the part of Saitama where I lived was really remote and underpopulated. It's one of these places where there are only old people and young delinquents. So there were no fashion scene to speak of, there wasn't even a store where we could get magazines !

VKEIOS: Who are some of the people in the fashion industry that you admire most?

Kimura U: There isn't anyone in particular, but I have to say, I love anime. The characters wear such zany clothes, it inspires me all the time !

VKEIOS: Are there any particular themes that you often incorporate in your day to day coordinates?

Kimura U: I love pastel colors, so they're a must in my choice of clothing.

VKEIOS: What have been some of your favorite trends as of late?

Kimura U: This fall I want to try to arrange parkas, you know, the really big ones, with my own style !

KERA magazine "Reader Model"

VKEIOS: When and how did you become a reader model for KERA magazine?

Kimura U: I told you about my band days, at the time we were so broke that not only was I making goods and accessories for the band, I also had no money to spend on clothes for myself, so I was crafting my own clothes too. This caught the eye of a editor at Kera, and he called me for their new corner called “handmade expert”, and that's how it all started.

VKEIOS: As a reader model, you play an active role in the magazine, could you tell us about what you do?

Kimura U: In “handmade expert” I was explaining through the articles how the readers, beginners or not, could arrange and remodel things with raw materiel from 1$ shops.

I was also a model for the latest Harajuku fashion and a model for Angelic Pretty, a brand of lolita fashion.

VKEIOS: What are some of the more challenging aspects of your reader model duties?

Kimura U: I was so nervous when I realized that pictures of me were going to be released in the world, I thought my heart was going to explode. I mean, in the whole country, the whole world, thousands of people were gonna look at me ! That was overwhelming !

VKEIOS: What advantages do you feel you have as a reader model?

Kimura U: I get to know the latest fashion faster than everyone else !

VKEIOS: Prior to becoming a reader model, did you ever expect or anticipate being a model?

Kimura U: Becoming a model was never something I thought I'd be doing, so I was the most surprised of all. But I have always wanted to create my own brand. Not only making clothes, I'd paint, draw, write and compose music or even novels, nevertheless I have always felt that I needed to have a creative process, any kind of it, as a part of my life.

VKEIOS: What are the things you love most about everything you do as a Reader Model?

Kimura U: Meeting the fans at various events ! And also reading fan letters ! Above anything else I really treasure in my heart all these people that encourage me.


VKEIOS: Being appointed as the Kawaii Ambassador by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, could you tell us what the experience was like?

Kimura U: For someone like me who came from a very rural background, and who believed in my own unique fashion style, trying to make it through each day, being recognized by the country is such a joy, I can't put it into words.

VKEIOS: As a Kawaii Ambassador, how do you go about spreading Japan’s kawaii culture to the world?

Kimura U: I am invited to many Japanese pop culture related events around the globe, I host some lectures around the history of Harajuku fashion, and I also go to fashion shows to introduce Harajuku fashion to a different crowd than expos and events. My goal is to become a bridge between Japan and the rest of the world.

Also I upload videos on YouTube, lectures on fashion and make-up and I am planning to broaden my video casting  activities in the near future !

[Kimura U's "Lolita makeup & hairdo course" video]

VKEIOS: You’ll soon be appearing at the TOKYO CRAZY KAWAII PARIS festival, what do you hope attendees will experience in their encounters with you?

Kimura U: We will make a fashion show at Tokyo Crazy Kawaii of clothes that I designed for the KOKOkim feat. GLAD NEWS collection that I designed. I will also make a handmade craft class during the event, so I hope I can have a lot of time to share the experience with the public and talk to many people.

VKEIOS: Having traveled around the world, what do you think about how ‘kawaii’ is expressed in different countries?

Kimura U: I think it is really interesting to see how many people around the world have appropriated, included elements of Japanese kawaii fashion and mixed them with their own culture and fashion sense.

I have seen Harajuku fashion mixed with turbans and such traditional features, and in America, lolita fashion might look a lot like Japan, but I realized people were included self made accessories, adding things that didn't exist in the original style of Harajuku ☆

It's very exciting for me to discover ways of thinking that would just never exist in Japan, and it inspires me greatly. (*^^*)

VKEIOS: Have your travels influenced your own personal views and expression of kawaii?

Kimura U: In Japan, Harajuku is trendy and hip, whereas Akihabara is the nerdy/geeky part of the city, and both worlds seem completely opposite. But I realized that abroad, both towns were symbols of the coolness of japanese pop culture !

With the collection I designed, I draw inspiration from this experience, trying to mix both worlds. “Moeru Harajuku” or “MoeHara” is the concept I created. I draw inspiration from anime and manga, but not to create costumes and things to wear as cosplay but as fashionable everyday clothes. I hope that this style can catch people's eye, and become a new worldwide style of fashion on its own !

VKEIOS: The word “kawaii” often means something different to everyone – what does kawaii mean to you?

Kimura U: Kawaii is that little twinge you feel in your chest ♡

Collaborations & Talents

VKEIOS: Outside of modeling you’re still involved in the music scene – you’ve released a collaboration CD with Hatsune Miku, could you tell us about that experience?

Kimura U: I love NicoNico Douga, I have been streaming videos on handmade craft on the site for a while, and as a fan of the vocaloid community, I got in touch with creators, since I was already listening a lot of Hatsune Miku songs !

I think I will be contributing more to my channel soon, especially on the musical side, so check it out !

VKEIOS: You are a part of the Litchi☆Hikari Club project, appearing in the PVs as Kanon - what was it like collaborating with Usamaru Furuya and HAKUEI?

Kimura U: In Litchi☆Hikari Club, the heroin Kanon is expressing for the first time through lyrics not her own feelings, but the feelings of other people, and she realizes with shock what it is to be able to express oneself like that through music !

The recording with Hakuei and the concert with Usamaru Furuya have been some of the best times of my life ! Until then I had always thought of my style so personal and unique that I wasn't made to be collaborating with others, but this experience proved me I was wrong ! It was a complete turning point in my life and in my career !

VKEIOS: You have wide range of talents, like designing and illustration - what’s the best part about having so many different ways of expressing your creativity?

Kimura U: I can make whatever I want when I want it ! Because if I try to find the thing I really want, from the bottom of my heart, I usually can't, so it's better that way.

VKEIOS: One of your hobbies is remaking old clothes, how do you change them and make them unique?

Kimura U: I use everything as material, whether it be cakes and sweets or underwear. My style is kinda rough, just putting everything together, see how it goes.

Also I like to remake things while streaming live on NicoNico Douga, seeing the comments and advices form the viewers is awesome !

VKEIOS: In addition to your remakes, you also create handmade pieces, what are some of your favorite items that you’ve made?

Kimura U: I love the dresses and parkas I designed for the KOKOkim Feat. GLAD NEWS collection to be shown at Tokyo Crazy Kawaii Paris. Especially the parkas, it took some all-nighters to complete them, and I integrated some illustrations from anime so I hope you can come to the fashion show to check them out.


VKEIOS: What are some of the goals you have for your career in the remainder of 2013?

Kimura U: I'd like to see the clothes I designed for KOKOkim Feat. GLAD NEWS  appear on TV. I'm sure I'll cry like a baby the first I'll see them on screen.

Also I want to become involved in voice acting.

VKEIOS: Thank you so much for your time, do you have any last words that you’d like to share with Visual KEIOS readers?

Just be kawaii!♡

Official Homepage


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This interview with was written by Alicia R. Thomas with contributions from Michelle Gaynor and Kaitlin Maginnis. Many thanks to Kimura U, her management, and Tokyo Crazy Kawaii Paris for making this interview possible!
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