05/24/2010 | By Shaun Laakso

Once upon a time a Rome-based illustrator fell in love with Japanese culture. Simone Legno’s passion for the land of the rising sun reflected in his artworks as well, which led to the creation of the Tokidoki project and website a few years ago.


Legno’s cute, Japanese cartoon strips attracted the attention of Hard Candy Cosmetic's co-founder Pooneh Mohajer and her husband, Ivan Arnold. In 2003 the couple began talks to turn Tokidoki into a brand, which would soon be bigger than anyone had imagined. The world of Tokidoki now covers everything from shoes, snowboards and skate decks, to bags, walls, and tour busses. Legno's trademark mix of innocence and pop art playfulness has won fans all around the world irrespective of their age, sex, race, or gender. Simone Legno dreamed of Tokidoki, believed in it and did everything to make it happen. Even if he considers himself lucky, he has worked very hard 24/7 to make it happen.



It is a bit difficult to explain Legno’s love for Japan. It can be referred to “Japanism”; a term coined to describe the craze for Japanese things. Legno is really fascinated about everything associated with Japan like the beauty of their tradition to the super trendy aspects of the super modern cities; the people, their kindness, seriousness and politeness; and the fact that they can be quite funny, playful and extremely creative at times.


Legno drew sketches of Japanese people and elements since he was in kindergarten. Not only his art but also his everyday universe contains plenty of Japanese colours and objects: souvenirs, packages, toys, books, prints, T-shirts and food. Japanese are extremely innovative in graphic design, art and street & couture fashion, which makes it, the most inspiring place for anybody who works in a creative field.



Tokidoki means “sometimes” in Japanese. It is a happy, cute, playful, stylish and pure yet provocative world that Simone Legno imagines and lives in. Legno loves everything in Japan; from the ultra-modern lifestyle of Shibuya to the serious magical silence of Kyoto. He chose “sometimes” because everyone waits for moments that change one’s destiny by chance or by meeting a new person. Tokidoki is the hope that something magical will happen to us, the hidden energy that everyone has inside, giving us the strength to face a new day and dream about something positive.


When designing new characters Legno usually starts with a pencil sketch in his notebook. He then scans the sketch and imports it, traces it over in Adobe Illustrator and adds more detail. For the cute characters he starts from a few simple ideas, later developing them into stories and worlds they live in. Over the years he has learnt not to overcomplicate or overdo the designs, which may very well be tempting in the beginning. A cute character has to have some original concept or meaning behind it and cannot just be any random cute dog or cat.



Legno usually uses female figures with Asian features to express beauty in most of his vector art compositions. Asian women are sweet, sensual, and shy with a nice and funny attitude. The strong personality hidden behind such a fragile and delicate figure and their sensuality behind their composure is certainly worth admiring. At a certain stage Legno felt that he could mix his Japanese female characters with cute little Kawaii ones to add to their sweetness and complete their gentle world. Kawaii is a world used constantly in Japanese everyday life which means cute, little, and simply adorable. There’s a perfect balance in Japan between a minimal, gentle sophisticated style and a super colorful, noisy colours chaos.


Legno enjoys creative brand projects.  It was a big challenge for him to work with Onitsuka Tiger, the street division for Asics. Legno loves sneakers, and the project involved changing the engineering of the shoe, the structure and shape, choosing all the materials and even deciding how the shoes should be stitched and not just printed on. Over the years, Simone Legno has also worked on projects for jeans giant Levi’s and Hello Kitty, along with big clients such as MTV, Volkswagen, Renault and Microsoft. Legno worked also on the official Black Eyed Peas merchandise, and Fergie is one of his biggest fans. Today, the Tokidoki collection is sold all over the world, and contains tops, accessories, shoes, trainers, gadgets, bags and makeup. Discover more of Legno’s colorful fun universe on