AnimeNEXT 2014 – Kimura Yu Panel

Creator of the most pink in the world. A multi-talented magazine fashion model turned creator, kimura U has been appointed Japan’s official “Kawaii Ambassador” by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to promote pop culture and represent Harajuku Fashion to the world. Having visited countries all over the world such as France, America, Italy and China, kimura U has been a guest at Japanese pop culture events such as Japan Expo and fashion events like Paris Collection. She is the leading emissary of the Shinjuku “kawaii” aesthetic. In 2013, she worked on the cover illustration for a photo collection by LiSA. Then, in 2014, her talents flowered when her original fashion brand, “KOKOkim,” opened at Shibuya 109, establishing her as a creator unbound by genre. This star of Shinjuku is recognized all over Japan! As the world’s #1 creator of pink, kimura U is unstoppable! ~AnimeNEXT info

    Kimura: I am Kimura U and I have the most pink stuff in the world. I am wearing something from my line of clothing now. My store, ‘KOKOkim’ just opened in Shibuya 109 in Japan. It is my first store. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs appointed me the Kawaii Amabassador of Japan in order to promote pop culture and Harajuku fashion. I will be sharing cuteness all over the world.
    Moderator: She has also been to many other countries as Kawaii Ambassador. This is her second time at Anime Next. Has anyone seen her in 2011? *fans respond in acknowledgement* They remember you!
    Kimura: Thank you very much! I make my clothes by hand. I had a dream 5 years ago to be in band. When I got the chance to be in a band, I realized that the lifestyle was more difficult than I imagined. I started selling my handmade items at concerts. *points to the slide being projected* All the items you see are items that I made by hand. The t-shirt that you see that I’m wearing is actually made from a bra that I got in Vietnam and made prettier and cuter.

    Mod: When was this picture taken?
    Kimura: This picture is actually from three years ago. You see the earrings in the picture, there are real Japanese candy inside of them. I make all my clothing by hand. A TV studio, NHK showcased my handmade items and that was how the Minister of Foreign Affairs discovered me and appointed me as the Kawaii Ambassador to promote pop culture and Harauku fashion. There is a channel in America called NHK World and I will be on program called ‘Kawaii International’. It will air on June 28 at 11:10am. I want my fans to check it out.

    Mod: It will be airing in Japan at 12:10pm and it can be seen streaming online as well. Who is in the picture here?
    Kimura: In the middle is Misako Aoki, popular icon for Lolita fashion. On the right, the one wearing the seifuku outfit to promote seifuku fashion is Fujioka Shizuka. One more not in the picture is the Anime Pop Culture Ambassador for Japan is Doraemon. Do you know Doraemon? *a few respond yes*
    Mod: Doraemon is really popular in Japan.

    Kimura: As Kawaii Ambassador, I am able to travel around the world. The picture at the bottom is the one I took when I was here at Anime Next in 2011. The top picture was when I went to Paris last year for a special event called ‘Tokyo Crazy Kawaii’. I had some handmade items there as well. The even in Paris is very different from other events. Instead of mix of organizers put on an event for the fans, they’re Japanese people in Paris putting on this event so it’s a different take on what a pop culture event would be like in your country. The picture on the left was taken during the fashion show in Paris. I am wearing something that I made. At that time, I didn’t have my brand yet so I collaborated with another designer in order to make the clothing that I designed.

    Kimura: I actually modeled alot for KERA magazine. I had the opportunity to model my own clothing line in the magazine. I was able to debut my concept brand, ‘Moehara’ which is inspired by anime. It’s really cute, super kawaii and ‘hara’ stands for Harajuku fashion.
    Mod: Has anyone heard of ‘moe’ before? It’s like ‘so cute that my heart is melting’.
    Kimura: In March, I opened my first store in Shibuya 109. The concept of ‘KOKOkim’ is clothing that anime characters would wear in real life.
    Mod: Something that one can wear every day on the street. You wouldn’t wear your cosplay every day on the street. Even if there is an anime theme with them, it is still something you can wear casually.

    Kimura: Usually when designers have a catalogue, they use humans as models. For this image, I use anime models.
    Mod: You can see in the picture that you see the anime model and then you see the same outfit only she is wearing the clothing. You can see alot of that on her website. There are also an overseas portion of the site. When you order over 7000 yen, they offer free shopping so everyone can get their clothes. That is really awesome since not many Japanese stores offer that.

    Mod: The pictures on the right are from your store. There is a Merry-Go-Round in there.
    Kimura: I mentioned before that I was in a band and was sold my items through the concerts for about 5 years. The money that I received from the fans was the main reason why I was able to open this store. I really wanted to create the concept of a castle that we built together. Because I really couldn’t have done this without the support of my fans. I wanted to make it a fun store, not only to shop but to have fun.
    Mod: The tv screen [in the store] shows a dream sequence that she can some day show her own anime in her own store. The artwork you see is also drawn completely by her. You said you have something to show us?

    Kimura: The outfit that I’m wearing right now is one that I made. The title of the outfit is ‘Aisu Ice cream’ aka. ‘Love Ice Cream’ and concept that if it comes together and gets too hot, than it will melt.
    Mod: The title is a pun since ‘love’ is ‘aisuru’ or ‘aisu’ for short and ice cream is ‘aisu creamu’. The print is also based on an experience that she had when she was young and experienced love that got too hot and her heart melted. Do you like her outfit? *fans applauds*
    Kimura: Thank you!

The floor opened up for questions.

    Q: When you were starting out in designing and making, what was your inspiration to get started?
    Kimura: When I was modeling, I didn’t have designer or model that I looked up to. Instead, I looked into anime, Sailor Moon, Creamy Mami, Madoka Magica rather than people.

    Q: Is being a Kawaii Ambassador an official title in Japan?
    Kimura: It is an official title granted by the government in Japan. They send me to different places around the world besides events in the US. It is even listed on the homepage of the Ministry of Affairs.

    Q: Since you have been traveling all over the world, what was the most interesting or the most strange thing you have experienced in other countries?
    Kimura: Strange? *laughs* I’ve been all over the world, but my favorite place is America. The reason is because when I see Americans, they always look so happy. When I came to Anime Next in 2011, I had the time to tour NY, I saw these people dancing in the street, they looked so happy.
    Mod: She said that she mentioned before that it would be so nice to live here in America and that she move her if she could. How about strange? Something different?
    Kimura: Strange in America?
    Mod: Anywhere.
    B>Kimura: While filming for NHK World, I went to Myanmar, Burma. When I dress like this in Japan, little girls would come up to me and say that I am from Sailor Moon or some other anime. This kind of fashion is not common in Myanmar and many have not seen it though it is becoming more popular and hopefully get more exposure in these countries. When I went there, little kids came up to me, laughed and ran away.

    Q: What is your favorite dessert and favorite cafe in Japan?
    Kimura: My favorite dessert are macarons. In Shibuya, there is a building called Hikari e with a cafe that is for adults and not for children. The snacks they give you are healthier and not to make you fat so I like going there.

    Q: *in Japanese* How old were you when you started modeling and started designing.
    Kimura: I started modeling when I was 15 years old. Since I only became a designer recently, it is a secret.

    Q: I heard you’ll be debuting as a voice actor soon.
    Kimura: I really like anime so I’m interested in doing voice acting. Last year, I started attending voice acting school. I will be in Youkai Taisen Sports Chambala [sp?]. The character that I’m voicing is a pillow that turns into a youkai. There is no information about it yet, not even a debut date so please check out my facebook.
    Mod: There is a clip on facebook so please check it out to see her in action.

    Q: If you could collaborate with any other anime series, which one would it be?
    Kimura: For my brand? Ah…I don’t know which one to choose!

    Q: What is the most difficult about starting your own line and what is most enjoyable?
    Kimura: When I actually illustration, I use photoshop. I think that is most difficult to do. Actually, using photoshop is also the enjoyable part of the process. Even though it is hard and frustrating at times, I do enjoy it.

To close the panel, Kimura went over the other events that she’ll be doing at the con…in English. ^_^ She will be in the fashion show tomorrow at 2pm. “Please come to the tea party tomorrow at 6pm. My autograph is sunday at 2pm. Hope to see you there!” The moderator added that you need to sign up for the tea party and a tea service along with snacks will be served. The autograph session on sunday will include a photo opportunity which is awesome considering that usually, photos are not allowed during autographs.