Simone Legno: tokidoki

Italian artist Simone Legno has made a mark having humbly starting his site tokidoki from his home base in Rome. The name and brand has since become synonymous with the Creative Director and Co-Founder of tokidoki. For the 34-year-old, tokidoki has become a brand much respected in both fashion and design. With thousands of followers from around the world, tokidoki has graced the pages of Numéro, Grazia and Vogue to thousands coveting their vinyl creation of Karl Lagerfeld. Legno’s most recent collaboration — a tokidoki Barbie — is garnering much press from around the world. See what he says when we caught up with Legno on his short trip to Vancouver. Read more…

Maybe you can tell a little bit about yourself. Where did you go to art school?

I’ve been designing since I was a little kid; my mom is a painter. Before art school I studied Political Science. This was before the computer graphics boom; now it’s really important with computer marketing, the web or social media. So, I dropped out of Political Science, because I really liked the nature of design. I did small jobs to pay for design school in Rome. At the beginning I did advertisement, which I liked very much. But then I started learning softwares like Illustrator and found I was really good at Flash animation. I did design school and then I specialized in graphic design.

After design school I started a company with my friend. We were mostly doing things like web design. Then I built tokidoki as a personal website, not a company website. A place for me to put stuff that wasn’t commercial. It became very popular, sometimes when I was updating, the design community, what we would now say “retweeting,” started blogging about tokidoki updates. I had up to 17 to 20 thousand people visiting the website a day.

Around what year was this?

Around 2002. Tokidoki was also my way to fish for freelance work, jobs for me and my friends. I had advertising agencies contact me, like making flash animation for Toyota, or flash animation for John Galliano’s website, or MTV Singapore, and of course working in Italy I had my portfolio of clients that I worked with. At present my partners [Pooneh Mohajer and Ivan Arnold] contacted me saying that they loved my artwork. I met them and they told me to move to LA, where we started this company. We were creating t-shirts and went to trade shows and went from there. Everything started to work and it started to grow. People started talking about us, especially when we started working with LeSportsac. It made my characters really popular by being in department stores, which did very well in America and Asia.

Why did you decide on the name tokidoki?

When I was in school, I wanted my own website and I was into Japanese art and culture. I’d go to Japanese cultural institutes and all my art works were inspired by books from Lonely Planet, prints, Japanese art books and posters, everything was about Japan. So I wanted a Japanese word and I really liked the word “tokidoki,” which means “sometimes.” Though this website sometimes magical things happen. Where I met people that really changed my life. I wrote a sentence on the [websites] first page: “tokidoki is the hope, the hidden energy that everyone has inside. It gives us the strength to face a new day and dream about something positive and the hope that something magical will happen to us.”

Your illustrations, are they done on the computer, like Illustrator or Photoshop? Or do you sketch them by hand?

It starts as an illustration or a sketch and then I scan it. If I’m too lazy to scan it, I’ll take a photo with my laptop camera. Sometimes I just shoot it with my phone and send it to my email. Here are some things I drew while in New York.

And you were there for Comic Con. How was that? Was that your first time there?

No, New York I’ve been twice before for Comic Con. So this was my third time there. It’s very good. It’s not bigger than the other Comic Cons, but there’s still hundreds and hundreds of fans.

Were you excited to see anyone at Comic Con?

No. We all know each other. We always meet up at different events. But maybe one day to meet Stan Lee.

While in New York you distributed a limited edition, blank vinyl unicorn, was it only available in New York?

When you do these shows everybody has to have their exclusives. Unfortunately, you could only get them there. I like the blanks, because you can draw on them. But you could probably find it on eBay!

You collaborated previously with Karl Lagerfeld, now it’s with Mattel’s Barbie. What other collaborations do you have in the works, or maybe you can talk about the tokidoki Barbie.

With Barbie it was a limited edition, but it’s really exploding – it was on ABC news, Good Morning America, and on CNN, and there’s a lot of talk on the web. I really wanted to do a Barbie because she’s such an American icon. It’s just one of those things that even my grandma knows who Barbie is. I wanted to do a now-a-days Barbie, fancy and glamourous with tattoos, like my tattooed tokidoki girls. It was an interesting experience; before you start you had to think about the skin tone, what kind of makeup, the haircut. So I’d flip through magazines for the right colour shade of makeup, what kind of gloss on the lips, to the nail colours and the shoes. I also wanted to make her look very Los Angeles, glamourous and diva and very tokidoki.

Now I’m doing electronic collaborations, cellphones with Metro PCS – an android phone. In Singapore/Malaysia we’re doing a collaboration with Canon. You get a camcorder and an exclusive tokidoki bag.

Now that you reside in LA, what do you miss about Italy?

Obviously the family: momma, dad, my brother and the entire neighbourhood that I grew up with. I miss the crowd. LA is a very good town, but I like walking and you see all the people, like in Tokyo or New York. Rome it’s even smaller, so it’s pretty crowded – I like the feel of the people around. And I don’t like driving; I like having my glasses of wine. I miss the history; seeing The Colosseum when you pass by. Even the simple conversations when you step out of your home. Rome is very neighbourhood oriented. When I visit, still after 34 years, the guy who I bought croissants from when going to elementary school, he’s still there. We talk to people about soccer; it’s part of our life.

I miss food so much. There are exceptional restaurants in LA: Italian, Japanese. But the ingredients are not the same; an eggplant that grows in Italy doesn’t taste like the ones in California. The fish in the Mediterranean is so salty, so tasteful; for cooking it’s better than ocean. Where ocean fish is better for sushi; it’s more fatty. But every region has it’s own food and textures, like cold cuts and wine. The more you grow up the more you appreciate good food.

Do you miss soccer in LA?

No, I get to watch soccer in LA. Sometimes I wake up at 6am to watch – even if my team is losing badly.

Top photo taken by Carmen Lam, all images courtesy of


One Comment

  1. Tisa Tram wrote:

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