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Kiko Mizuhara — The Japanese Model On Being True To Herself

By Caroline Suganda

Kiko Mizuhara in Coach coat and earrings.
Kiko Mizuhara in Coach coat and earrings.

If you are Japanese, into their culture and celebrities, you’d be familiar with Kiko Mizuhara who’s usually featured in the pages of local Japanese fashion magazine, Vivi. And for those of us who are not as familiar with the name or the face, we soon will be. Mizuhara has, in the last decade, catapulted into “It” girl status on the international fashion circuit — thanks to the power of the internet and social media, as well as the burgeoning number of brands, which she counts as partners.

Mizuhara wears many hats. The 28-year-old American-Japanese, currently Tokyo’s biggest model and Instagram (@i_am_kiko) icon, is also an actress, singer and designer. With these many hats, versatility is her middle name; today, she is the girl-next-door with a sweet smile and radiating pure innocence, while a kooky, kawaii Tokyo girl sporting two pig-tail buns is her persona for tomorrow. On the red carpet, she’s a star with a striking presence, always mesmerising with her sleek black hair and a sophisticated sense of style. But despite all that immaculate ’do, there’s no air of pretence surrounding her. On the contrary, she’s always imbuing her girls-just-wanna-have-fun attitude with cutesy, peace sign pose wherever possible — just take a look at her street style snaps.

TakayMizuhara in Coach vest and choker.
Mizuhara in Coach vest and choker.

With more than 15 years of modelling experience, Tokyo-based Mizuhara has fronted more than 100 magazine covers from around the world. In her early days when Tokyo’s modelling scene was heavily populated with ganguro style models who have bleach blonde hair and tanned skin, Mizuhara has kept true to herself: natural black hair and fair skin.

Her slim oval face, always framed by shoulder-length hair, boasts features that are innocent and pleasant to look at — soft chestnut-brown eyes beneath neat double eyelids that slant a little upwards when she breaks into a wide smile. Her mixed-race genes certainly make a good quotient that appeals to Asians and beyond, and to both men and women.

TakayMizuhara in Coach vest, skirt and choker; stylist’s own bra top.
Mizuhara in Coach vest, skirt and choker; stylist’s own bra top.

T Singapore’s team met up with her twice, on the account of this month’s cover story; once, during New York Fashion Week last September (for this shoot) and then in Singapore, where Mizuhara graced the re-opening of Coach boutique at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. The American brand has recently tapped her as its ambassador; she is the first Japanese face for the leather goods company. At the former event, Mizuhara was invited to watch the Coach Spring/Summer ’19 show, but Coach’s creative director Stuart Vevers suddenly decided to have her walk the show, just three days before it was due to take place. “So, I was like, ‘okay’ and went to the Coach office and did a fitting. It happened all of a sudden, but I was really honoured at the same time,” said Mizuhara in fluent English, tinged with an American accent, during an interview with T Singapore, where she had also graciously freed up some time to create exclusive content (for our digital platform) at a local karaoke club.

“I remembered my friend buying her first Coach bag, I was so jealous of her. You know, those days...” said Texas-born Mizuhara, who recounted an anecdote from when she was 13 or 14. Today, she has not only earned her own Coach bag, she has also designed one through Coach Create — a DIY experience that allows any customer to customise Coach leather goods. “I think I made it in like 10 minutes or something. You know like when you are in the moment... You would just open your creativity and mind to do whatever you want” said Mizuhara, who took the brand’s Charlie Carryall and chose to adorn it with leather tea roses, semi-precious stones and moon pins. It was produced in limited quantities and was available for purchase in selected boutiques in Japan.

TakayLeft: Mizuhara in Coach jumpsuit and boots; stylist’s own bra top. Right: Coach vest.
Left: Mizuhara in Coach jumpsuit and boots; stylist’s own bra top. Right: Coach vest.

As Mizuhara sung a few Rihanna songs here and there (despite being asked to just pretend-sing) for the shoot, it’s quite clear that her her happy-go-lucky attitude is the reason she has over 5 million followers on Instagram (at press time). “I am just a free-minded person. I can’t live without creativity and I cannot live without having fun,” said Mizuhara. This endearing allure of hers, coupled with her admiration towards indie cool girl Chloë Sevigny’s quirky sense of style, clearly translates into her own brand too, Office Kiko (also known as OK), which she launched together with younger sister Yuka Mizuhara. Its online site debuted on the elder Mizuhara’s birthday weekend in October 2017. OK is high-octane, comfortable fashion that takes its cues from the ’90s to early 2000s gyaru style, but made for the modern-day. She calls them, in her own words, “easier clothes” for “normal people to wear”— a total opposite of the aesthetic of iconic Japanese designers such as Rei Kawakubo. Prior to this, Mizuhara had dabbled with designing capsule collections, such as the collaboration with multi-label store Opening Ceremony six years ago. Beyoncé was spotted wearing a pizza-print outfit from the collection.

TakayCentre: Mizuhara in Coach vest and choker. Right: Mizuhara in Coach dress and earrings.
Centre: Mizuhara in Coach vest and choker. Right: Mizuhara in Coach dress and earrings.

Social media exposure will inadvertently bring with it the naysayers and negative comments. Mizuhara has had her fair share of controversies when it comes to her Instagram posts, but never meant for certain posts to be emotive. And her philosophy on life explains it. “Life happens only once. And I want to be just positive and do not want to think about any negativity,” says Mizuhara. “I just want to be happy every single moment in my life and just like be the best of me. So, that’s how I want to be.”

Related Story: On Set | Kiko Mizuhara
Photographs by Takay
Creative Direction by Jumius Wong
Styled by Gregory Woo
Hair: Sean Michael Bennett
Makeup: Yuui Vision
Manicure: Eichi Matsunaga
Subject: Kiko Mizuhara