What stemmed from a cactus shaped like a rabbit in southern Italy turned into one of Tokidoki brand creator Simone Legno’s most popular characters to date ““ Sandy, a girl dressed in a cactus outfit to keep herself safe from bad things in the world.
Tokidoki is a brand that includes Legno’s graphic designs on a variety of T-shirts, purses, hats, laptop cases and cell phone covers. Tokidoki has collaborated with many companies including Yogurtland, Target, Hello Kitty and Sephora.
Tonight, Legno is the Campus Events Commission’s featured speaker and will be presenting in Kerckhoff’s Grand Salon on how he established his career.
Since he was a child growing up in Rome, Legno has been fascinated by traditional Japanese art and culture. At 20, Legno put together funds from small freelance projects to take his first trip to a place that he has now, at the age of 34, visited 24 times.
“It’s a bit embarrassing to say, but as soon as I landed, I started to cry on the plane because I realized it was a longtime dream of mine to visit. Every time I go, there’s something that really excites me. … Japan transforms continuously, and there’s always something new,” Legno said.
When Legno decided to go to college to study art, his father questioned where he would go with it.
After discontinuing his studies in political science and pursuing his dream of graphic design at the European Institute of Design in Rome, Legno established his international brand, which he said is only in its beginning stages.
“Tokidoki means “˜sometimes’ in Japanese and, to me, sometimes dreams come true and sometimes things happen for you. I just managed to put my artwork online and thought maybe I’ll meet the right people who will help me develop one of my many dreams,” Legno said.
By the time he was 26, Legno established Tokidoki with business partners Pooneh Mohajer and Ivan Arnold and relocated to Los Angeles. Legno said Mohajer and Arnold saw his work and suggested that he transform his ideas into products.
“My life and career started from a website that I made in 2001. It was getting 17,000 to 20,000 hits a day before it even became a company,” Legno said.
CEC staff member and third-year American literature student Morgan Taylor said that CEC wanted Legno to speak at UCLA because of his experience in design and business marketing. With Legno being CEC’s first graphic designer, Taylor said she hopes that students get insight for the fashion and business industries.
“Tokidoki is one of the few brands that established itself through collaborating with other companies and thinking outside of the box, something we thought not a lot of companies do,” Taylor said.
With the recent disaster in Japan, Legno created a Japan relief T-shirt. In addition to postponing his own wedding with wife-to-be, Kaori Matsumoto, in Japan because of safety concerns, Legno worked with actor Josh Duhamel and other celebrities to put together the “Tokidoki Relief Run,” which took place in Santa Monica at the end of March and raised $200,000.
Along with traditional art in Japan, Legno also incorporates Japanese pop culture and personal life experiences into his creations.
“Designing is like a life diary. When I was in Los Angeles, I was inspired by the bling, the diamonds, the guns and the street pop culture,” Legno said.
When naming his characters, Legno treats them as if he were giving a friend a nickname. A few examples include a grim reaper whose name is Adios, his girlfriend named Ciao Ciao and a cow named Mozzarella.
Fourth-year psychology student Mae Catoera has been a fan of Tokidoki since 2006 and said that Legno’s designs stand out from other purses she has.
“I love the brand because I find the characters and designs … very cute and completely different from other designer brands. I love the boldness and brightness of Simone’s designs. There’s the character who is a girl in a cactus, and if that’s not unique, I don’t know what is,” Catoera said.
Legno has dedicated his life to his brand and currently devotes his time to traveling around the world working to expand Tokidoki.
“You have to breathe what you design and do what you want to do from the moment you wake up to the moment you sleep. Over the past 10 years, I’ve cultivated Tokidoki from the very beginning, and I’m honored that I get to live my dream,” Legno said.