Geishas, bullets, skeletons, rainbows, flowers, diamonds and milk cartons... in the Tokidoki world of Simone Legno, each of these Kawaii cute characters is worthy of becoming a globally collected icon.

Tokidoki -- which translates to 'sometimes' in Japanese -- is the brainchild of Simone Legno who began drawing the work in his home country of Italy. Today, his adorable cartoon world is available worldwide on hip apparel, footwear, handbags, accessories, and toys.

Business partners Ivan Arnold and Pooneh Mohajer brought Legno to Los Angeles to create the Tokidoki line, and on Saturday (12/12/09) they opened their first California store. An eager crowd of fans lined up in the rain to meet the great Legno, gobble free cupcakes and purchase a bounty of Tokidoki items for themselv..  um, ... er..  to give as super rad holiday presents.

LA.com was given a sneak peek into the new store and a chance to sit down with Legno, Arnold, and Mohajer to discuss all things Tokidoki.


LA.COM INTERVIEW
Tokidoki LA - Simone Legno, Ivan Arnold, Pooneh Mohajer


What made you choose this location for the first Tokidoki store in California?

Ivan Arnold: I think the Melrose Heights district is a very hip, young, edgy neighborhood and I think it fits the brand well. Of all of the places that we looked at in LA, it was a perfect match for what we are looking to do with Tokidoki.
Simone Legno at Tokidoki LA on Melrose - Photo by Julie Wolfson for LA.com
(Photo by Julie Wolfson for LA.com)



How long did it take to get this project off the ground?

Ivan Arnold: We identified Melrose Heights about two years ago. It took about a year and a half from the time we signed the lease to get the store open.


What makes Los Angeles the right place for this store?

Ivan Arnold: Los Angeles is our home. It's where the Tokidoki headquarters is and where Tokidoki was born five years ago.

Simone Legno: Los Angeles it is where I transformed my ideas into something real and concrete. Lots of artists come to LA to become directors, actors, dancers, artists and designers, some of us are lucky enough to make it. I have to thank Ivan and Pooneh who believed in me and asked me to move from Italy to the States and start this venture together from zero. I remember at the time one of the things that convinced me to come here was all the passion and vision they had to transform my art into a brand.
NEW! Tokidoki Store on Melrose - Photo by Julie Wolfson for LA.com
(Photo by Julie Wolfson for LA.com)
 I have been daydreaming, "One day we sill have a store in Los Angeles" and finally it happened. This is a very special time for the three of us.


Pooneh Mohajer: It is very surreal. We are thrilled to open a store here in Los Angeles on Melrose.


Do you remember when you first became aware of Japanese pop culture and art?

Simone Legno: When I was in kindergarten I used to sketch Asian people and Japanese robots. Italy in the 80s was probably the country that was most bombarded by the Japanese animation. It was everywhere. Even if you talk to my mom she knows the names of Japanese robots like Mazinger and characters like doraemon. It became part of our culture the the late 70s and 80s. That was the spark that as a kid made me think, "Oh that is so great." Watching the animation was not just about the characters of the story. I could see the lifestyle. They show Japanese houses, what they eat, the trains, the uniforms, the little towns. From that I was very much in love with Japan and it was a dream to go there. Then I found my first freelance work as a graphic designer when I was 19 or 20 and I was able to buy a ticket to Japan. Growing up I collected Japanese books about photography, grammar, everything I could find about Japan. My Japanese library is still in Rome.


How do feel that growing up in Italy influences your work?


Simone Legno: I think that it is the country of art. Since we were kids, even in a passive way we absorb art, from the art of the ancient Romans to other periods like the Renaissance and Baroque. There is the culture of design and the culture of fashion. Italians have a big passion and I really love and cherish everything I do. Even when I design and when I work, I really try do my best in many things. In my work, I add many Italian elements like the cactus for the cactus friends, I was in South Italy where my father is from. It's very hot, almost like North Africa that kind of climate, South Mediterranean. There were cactus all over. One day I was there and I was watching them and I was thinking that from far away they look like bunnies. Then I invented the cactus friends. And Latte, Latte is inspired by the same color and shape of the milk carton in Rome. Especially now that I moved to Los Angeles, I became more nostalgic and I put in some elements that are steriotypes of my country the pizzas, the spaghetti, vespas and some bad steriotypes I have fun with like maffia in the movies.


When you're not working, where is your favorite place to eat in Los Angeles?

Ivan Arnold: I like LA steakhouses: Morton's, Mastro's, Ruth's Chris, Lawry's, Fogo de Chao.

Pooneh Mohajer: I have so many parts of Los Angeles that I love. For lunch I love La Scala in Beverly Hills, the best chopped salad in town.

Simone Legno: I think I live in the perfect neighborhood. We all live there. I love the Sawtelle area. I can walk. I have a little corner of Japan with Japanese influenced stores and restaurants. And such a calm, funky, and cute neighborhood. I really enjoy my neighborhood.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE PHOTOS OF THE NEW TOKIDOKI STORE ON MELROSE

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