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Punk-meets-kawaii goes global

Italian artist Simone Legno (above) designed the special SG50 edition of tokidoki's Unicorno line of toys.
Italian artist Simone Legno (above) designed the special SG50 edition of tokidoki's Unicorno line of toys.PHOTO: SINGAPORE TOY, GAME & COMIC CONVENTION
Italian artist Simone Legno designed the special SG50 edition of tokidoki's Unicorno line of toys (above).
Italian artist Simone Legno designed the special SG50 edition of tokidoki's Unicorno line of toys (above).PHOTO: SINGAPORE TOY, GAME & COMIC CONVENTION

Tokidoki creator Simone Legno says the lifestyle brand is a visual way of how he sees his life as he is passionate about Japanese pop art and culture

Italian artist Simone Legno has come a long way since dropping out of his political science studies at university.

Tokidoki, the lifestyle brand he created which is characterised by its unique punk-meets-kawaii aesthestics, has charmed its way into the hearts of millions around the world, including German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, who has a limited-edition figurine modelled after him.

Local tokidoki fans can meet Legno when he comes to town for the Singapore Toy, Game and Comic Convention.

Legno, who is married to a Japanese, Kaori Matsumoto, got his start after dropping out of political science degree, instead pursuing his higher education in graphic design at the European Institute of Design in Rome.

He began tokidoki on his personal portfolio website, before being approached by American cosmetics company Hard Candy in 2003, who helped him develop the tokidoki brand.

The brand has gone on to collaborate with labels such as LeSportSac and Onitsuka Tiger and Japanese icon Hello Kitty.

Apart from promoting his products at the convention here, the 38-year-old will give a talk and conduct a signing session for fans.

Life speaks to Legno before he arrives here.

1. Did you ever imagine tokidoki would be this popular?

I had the vision of tokidoki as a lifestyle brand and wanted to go global. I didn't know how far it would go, though. I was pleasantly surprised how far it has come.

2. What was your favourite toy or TV show when you were growing up?

I loved Gundam from Japan as well as robots and anime figurines. In particular, I loved Bandai's Jumbo Machinder (a series of Japanese robot toys).

3. What are your thoughts about Singapore, having visited here regularly since 2008?

Singapore is a melting pot of culture. I love Marina Bay Sands and Clarke Quay because they are so near the water. It's been amazing to see the city change so much over the years.

4. What's the greatest challenge of your job?

I love my job, but having to be involved in the business and approvals, and dealing with all my agents, affects the initial passion a little. Ultimately, despite having to wear so many hats, it's a fascinating journey to be on.

5. How would you describe your style?

Tokidoki is a visual diary of the way I envision my life. I'm extremely passionate about Japanese art and pop culture and I wanted to make a Westernised version of the Japanese kawaii style and was particularly inspired by its street art, tattoos and hairstyles.

6. What is the favourite character you have designed?

Sandy, the little girl who wears a cactus suit and who has the spikes to protect herself from the world. She's so iconic that when I collaborated with Hello Kitty, they gave Hello Kitty a cactus suit as well.

7. What's next for tokidoki?

We're planning to design a range of slot machines exclusively for the Marina Bay Sands casino. We'll also be working with Asics to release new designs. We've been redesigning Charles Schulz's classic Peanuts characters in the tokidoki style.

8. How would you like to be remembered?

Apart from being happy and charming, I want to be remembered as a person who is down-to- earth even after becoming so successful.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2015, with the headline 'Punk-meets-kawaii goes global'. Print Edition | Subscribe