It’s been a year since I last interviewed Tokidoki founder Simone Legno, when he was promoting his collaboration with fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld. One of the highlights of his exciting career as an artist (apart of course from creating a successful international brand), the collab resulted in the sought-after Karl doll and other merchandise that sometimes also featured Lagerfeld’s cat, Choupette.
Tokidoki’s Japanese-inspired illustrations have become a part of Simone’s world. Although Italian by descent, his fascination with all things Japanese — from the food, to the karaoke culture, to, of course, anime — is translated in his work, which has earned him a global fanbase that worships him, having his characters tattooed on their bodies and all. He once said that it’s the highest form of flattery, and that it’s crazy insane — in a good way!
The 38-year-old father, husband, artist, and all around rockstar will be visiting Manila for Asia Pop Comic Con 2015. GIST caught up with him before all the craziness begins.
Gist: What have you been up to lately? what is next for Tokidoki?
Simone Legno: I am always very busy with preparing the new seasons for the apparel, hats, bags, and some new toys. As for special collaborations I am designing some new concept for slot machines, preparing new sneakers with Onitsuka Tiger, more products in partnership with Hello Kitty and couple of concepts for some events in Mainland China. I am investing way more time in painting right now because fine art is a passion for me and another of my career objectives.
You’ve been visiting a lot of conventions — are you still overwhelmed by the sheer number of followers you and your brand has?
Not at all. Actually I consider meeting the fans a big booster of energy and confidence. It really makes me very motivated that with just a sketch I can make some people so happy. Sometimes it gets very tiring but I still do it with enthusiasm and gratitude.
Tell us about the process of creating a character.
I am constantly thinking about some new character. I take notes and do some rough sketches in my notebook. They often pop in mind when I am traveling and alone because I don’t get any distractions from my team and the daily business. After the rough sketch, I do a better version of it and scan it to work over it with Illustrator.
Your favorite is cactus Girl — any new characters that are fast becoming favorites?
I am more and more in love with the Wild Boys who are some tigers that I created for the Onitsuka Tiger collaboration and I just released a toy at San Diego Comic Con. I think they are very edgy and cool but fun at the same time. They can be appreciated both by female and male audience.
When brands and designers come to you, how does your approach towards the project change?
At this point is a matter of experience and instinctually I know what kind of artwork I have to use and what not. I try to respect their audience, brand values and style and based on that, I design.
Have any of your characters been inspired by a real person (aside from Karl Lagerfeld)? who and why?
I generally watch people, I love to observe the crowd and I capture personalities, details and clothing but not a specific person.
How do you remain childlike? How do you stay in touch with your imagination?
I think the nature of my job keeps me stuck in the fantasy world. I just love what I do and keep on thinking about it all the time. I am sure the fact that I became a father and playing with my daughter is helping me a lot.
What’s the toughest thing about being an artist?
The big mental pressure to always find new ideas. Sometimes you just have to think too much at any moment of day and night. In my case as co- owner of a brand and a company, I think it’s very hard as well to even keep track of all the business, strategy, marketing, promotion, calls and meetings that are going on…it really gets overwhelming.
What has being an artist given you that you may not have gotten have you ended up doing something else?
I think the variety of people whom I have met around the world. I met many creative guys, businessmen, agents, designers, journalists of any kind and some of them became special friends to me.
What are you a big fan of? Were you the type of kid who would go to comic con?
I always loved Japanese anime.
In the ‘80s when I grew up, Italian televison was very much invaded by Japanese shows and that was one of my main reasons for loving Japan culture and pop culture. In the last 15 years or more I have been collecting vintage robots and they are basically all over my living room!