The 21st century girl doesn’t pertain to any stereotype. She’s a chick of many talents, one moment she’s in Europe, the next she’s in Asia. She’s working on several artistic projects at once and killing it at every single one. She’s a mix of races – picking up different cultures as she travels. She’s the mysterious girl at the party you want to know her life story from and who everyone has their eyes on. Here we have sat down with one of them and chatted for you.
Alisa Ueno is Tokyo’s globe trotter, creative director and designer of Fig&Viper, DJ and all around IT-girl. She brings the best of both worlds–east and west as she wanders around the world going to the hottest parties with her signature ever-changing hair colour. After years of trying to meet up, we finally do at Columbus Circle in New York.
Photography and interview by Lauren Engel
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Tell us about your upbringing and how did it shape the person you are now? What jobs do your parents have? Do you come from a creative background?
My mother was a programmer, and my father worked for an musical instruments company and played in a band, and still does today as a hobby. My father was playing a gig at a disco and my mother happened to be one of the workers at the disco house and that’s how they met. Since they both worked in the music related industry, I think my parents love for music is probably where I got my love for music from. Also, my father loves 70s funk soul and used to make me listen to them as a child so that increased my interest towards music more I think.
How did you get started with Fig & Viper? What was the inspiration for starting it? What is your role in the company?
I got scouted by my boss and that’s I started working for Fig & Viper. When they initially started brainstorming for Fig & Viper, they scouted me to be in the designing position even though I had no previous experience. I was a student at a University and a model so I was always involved in the fashion industry and had some knowledge in fashion. So when they asked me to take part in the brand as a designer, I was very interested and excited to be a part of the experience. I took part in starting the brand from the beginning. I studied how our products were made by visiting factories in China and I learned how to make and design the clothing myself. Although my Job title is Creative Director which includes coordinating the designs, PR, production, and visual merchandising, I am one of the board members for Fig & Viper as well.
You’ve said before that Japan isn’t trendy anymore and you are inspired to make it more trendy again, have you seen it change so far?
I wish I could say yes but due to the normcore trend, there is less and less unique fashion here in Japan. I too was wearing simpler clothes last year but of course, I got bored of it quickly. The girls here in Tokyo are crazy conscious about their appearance. They dye their hair, get their nails done, and sometimes wear heels all day, everyday. They need to look on point 24/7!
“The girls here in Tokyo are crazy conscious about their appearance. They dye their hair, get their nails done, and sometimes wear heels all day, everyday. They need to look on point 24/7!”
What is the fashion scene like in Japan now?
Due to the normcore trend last year, people wear a lot of loose clothing. Girls will wear wide pants with loose tops. The fashion trends in Shibuya, Harajyuku, and Akihabara are still all different and unique from each other but I see a lot of girls staring to follow the Korean culture, especially over the past few years. They would mirror Korean makeup styles and wear clothes from Korean brands.
You’re able to travel the world and meet so many amazing people, what have you learnt from it? How are you able to travel the world?
Luckily, I get to travel a lot for work through DJing, Fig & Viper and my Instagram page. I’ve always enjoyed travelling since I was a student and used to travel every month for vacation. It doesn’t really matter where I go, just being in a new environment refreshes my mind and gives me new inspirations when ever I’m traveling. Now I have friends I can go visit all over the world, it makes me realize that this is such a small world! This could be because the world I’m exposed to is so close and relative but I feel that everyone is connected somewhere some how. This has to do with SNS making our lives more public, allowing us to see all the connections between different communities. All my friends are hard workers and that pushes me to work hard just like them. But I think that goes the same with my friends, they know how hard I’m working and that pushes them too.
What’s the inspiration for your style and constantly dyeing your hair all different colors?
I get my inspirations though a lot of things. The cities I visit, fashion, culture, people I meet, these thing all help me come up with new ideas. Of course I get inspired from the city of Tokyo as well. I usually dye my hair on a whim. I’ve tried pretty much everything imaginable in the past 4 years and lately I tend to dye my hair purple since it eventually fades and goes back to white.
You find yourself dressed in more foreign clothes, what do you like about western clothes?
I like foreign clothes since it’s bold. Japanese fashion has a lot of items which are kawaii, fine, and detailed. On the other hand, foreign clothes have skirts and pants which are so long that you are dragging them, and have tops with very revealing cuts. Japan is very conservative so I tend to buy bold outfits when I’m travelling outside of Japan.
What is your perception of true love?
True love is being able to do something for someone without expecting anything in return. It’s being able to give 3 of the 5 you have.