If you’re a fan of all things geeky, or if you’re into fashion and Japanese style, you’ve most likely heard of the lifestyle brand tokidoki (which means “sometimes” in Japanese). If you’re not familiar with tokidoki, the brand creates a wide range of products, from collectible toys to apparel and accessories.
Tokidoki has also collaborated with different industries, ranging from fashion brands such as Levi’s and ASICS, to pop culture and games such as Spongebob and even Blizzard’s Overwatch. The brand’s co-founder, Italian-born artist Simone Legno, is actually fixture in conventions such as San Diego Comic-Con; where he’s well-known as an artist who is a fan of Japan and pop culture in general. Now, he’s in the Philippines for this weekend’s AsiaPOP Comic Con!
We had a chance to sit down and chat with Simone ahead of the convention, and he told us about the origins of tokidoki and his experience working with Blizzard in the Overwatch collaboration.
You’re an Italian guy who founded a Japanese-inspired brand. Why the Japanese style for tokidoki?
I think the reason why is because during the late 70s and 80s when I was a child, [Japan had a big] influence in terms of pop culture which engulfed the country completely. There were 24 hour channels with Japanese animation and Japanese TV series. So it’s normal, even if for example you ask my mom about some character like Mazinger, she knows it as well as Mickey Mouse.
But for me, watching anime was not just about loving the robots or all the characters, its’ about watching the [Japanese] lifestyle. There was no internet so I got to watch people [in anime] eating with chopsticks/eating rice bowls, seeing the cherry blossoms, the bullet trains, [Japanese] school uniforms, kimonos. All these were sensational for me as a little kid, and it started a Japanese love. So when I grew up I started studying traditional Japanese art, then I started going to a Japanese foundation to learn more about the culture. So far I’ve been [to Japan] 49 times.
Yes, I count them (laughs). Well I will move to Japan sooner or later. My wife is Japanese and my kids are half Japanese so I guess Japan is just part of my life.
What’s it like to collaborate with Blizzard on Overwatch?
I love to redesign iconic characters, and make something different to what they are. So these kinds of game heroes are very similar to anime characters and superheroes so it’s almost the same process with my Marvel [collaborations].
And then, I love the company; the people at Blizzard, specifically the ones at the licensing team, were extremely wonderful. We started with World of Warcraft, a small project, and then for Overwatch we just previewed it at Comic Con. But we will continue to work on it because other stuff like Marvel now is overdone; I was one of the first to make the cute version [of Marvel] but now there’s so many others.
So I’m very excited with Overwatch, especially as in no time it became a mainstay in pop culture. And I feel like I have this opportunity with Blizzard to do something fresh and different.
— Blizzard Ent (@Blizzard_Ent) July 6, 2017
Do you play video games such as Overwatch as well?
Unfortunately, no. I mean of course I grew up playing video games, arcades, and stuff like that. Who didn’t? (laughs)
But my lifestyle now is I work around 14 hours a day, and then I have two kids. I also travel a lot, and I have to make time for my family else my wife would kill me (laughs). So my work and my family make [playing games] really impossible.
So what drew you into the Overwatch collaboration?
I already knew about Overwatch before it came out when I went to the Blizzard office, which is like a small city with 6000 people (laughs). So we were discussing World of Warcraft and then they showed me their presentation of Overwatch, they told me that it was their next game and it’ll come out in a year. And I was like ‘Wow, it was something different.’ It was like very technological and superhero-ish, and I just loved the character design and the energy.
Does character design play a big role in determining your collaborations?
Yes. I have to like the character, and I have to like the game. Sometimes I have requests for collaborations for famous characters, but if I think it’s not cool then [I won’t go for it].
What can fans expect from Simone and tokidoki at APCC?
We’re a bit more organized as compared to last year, so there’s going to be more merchandise and a better booth presence.
Will we see more tokidoki retail stores, like in the Philippines for example?
Well it depends a lot on partners. Right now, we’re working a lot with China where we should have around 30 stores by the end of 2017. We will also have stores in Bangkok and Dubai. But yeah it depends on finding a local partner, as I can’t operate a store from Los Angeles to here.
Do you have plans on partnering with local artists in the Philippines?
I don’t have any plans right now, but yeah there’s so much art here that I’ve seen in galleries; the talent here is incredible. If there comes an opportunity, I’m definitely open. For example, once I’ve done a Filipino hero with boxing gloves in my collaboration with Nonito Donaire, the Filipino Flash.
You can catch Simon Legno and be able to buy tokidoki merchandise at this weekend’s APCC 2017. The convention will run from August 25-27 at the SMX Convention Center, Pasay.
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