Perhaps best known as a founding member of the Japanese Super group AKB48, Tomomi Itano has been performing in music, television and as model in magazines throughout Asia. Itano made her San Francisco debut Saturday night as a featured performer at the Live from Union Square portion of the 2014 J-Pop Summit Festival. A few hours before the show we sat down with Itano to chat about fashion and developing personal style.
SW: Throughout your career as an actress, model, and pop-star you’ve gained a lot of popularity for your many talents, and for your personal style, with some even calling you AKB48’s “fashion leader.” How would you describe your personal style on stage?
Tomomi Itano: I change my fashion every day depending on my mood, so I don't really have a single particular style on stage. I might wear a "kawaii" dress one day, and the next I might wear more "cool" style street wear, but I also do denim and tees! I have a new theme every day.
SW: Are there any particular brands, or designers that you like to wear on stage?
Tomomi Itano: I don't wear particular brands onstage, instead I work with one designer to create all my onstage looks just for me.
SW: And what about off stage? Does your ‘down time’ style differ from your costumes?
Tomomi Itano: Onstage costumes tend to be very bright and colorful, very fancy. So in that sense stage costumes are different from my normal clothes, because if I wore very bright very fancy clothes all the time I would draw too much attention to myself! But, at the same time, there are days when I want to wear bright colors and fancier clothes in my off-stage life too.
SW: So would you say off-stage clothes are just a more casual version of your onstage style?
Tomomi Itano: Well, it's not really that casual. I still create a new outfit every day, even when I am not performing. I also still take photos every day just in case they need to be sent out.
SW: That's a lot of pressure to have to a brand new outfit every single day!
Tomomi Itano: It is fun! I love fashion.
SW: So which designers either Japanese or otherwise, are your favorites?
Tomomi Itano: I really like Givenchy, because I really love Riccardo Tisci. Someday I would love to work with him. I also really like Chanel.
SW: So you are a fan of Karl Lagerfeld as well?
Tomomi Itano: Yes definitely.
SW: Are there any celebrities, or maybe other musicians who's personal style you admire yourself? Maybe someone who inspires you when you are thinking about how you will develop your own style?
Tomomi Itano: Yes! Rihanna!
SW: Ok, just for fun, if you could only wear one outfit all the time to show off your personal style, what would it be?
Tomomi Itano: Oh that's hard! I think if I chose some Kawaii I would get tired of it too fast, so I would want something a little easier, more comfortable, more cool style than Kawaii style.
SW: Can you tell us about your outfit today? What is the meaning behind the letters on your dress and on your shoes. I see the word "Swag" is that for your album?
Tomomi Itano: Swag is the name of my album, it's a slang word, all the other letters make up other slang words too! The new album has a lot of new singles which are in different style, a lot of EDM and a bit of hip-hop, I worked with my costume designer to create this outfit which is also a bit more hip hop in style.
SW: Is hip-hop fashion popular in Japan?
Tomomi Itano: Yes, very, especially with the younger generations.
SW: Okay, Tomomi, last question. For your fans in the U.S. who see your style and are inspired to try to put together a Japanese fashion look for themselves, what advice do you have? Where should they start in building a personal style?
Tomomi Itano: In Japan accessories are very important. Even cellphone cases are very decorated. But I see the U.S style as a lot more simple and plain, so the best place to start is with more accessories! Start with the Japanese concept of Decora and build from there!
Tomomi Itano will perform a second time during the J-Pop Summit Festival at 11 A.M. Sunday morning. For more information on other upcoming U.S performances, or to find out how you can get a copy of SWAG visit her official web home.
All images: C.Hope and S.Whittle for Style Wylde.