As much as you love Japan, that’s how much j-fashion model Ayumi Seto loves the USA. Signed to the ASOBISYSTEM agency (home of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu), and master of the style coordinate known as “Kidz”, Seto recently launched her lifestyle brand “Aymmy in the Batty Girls”; a startling mix of pop art, punk, junk food, and good old fashioned American trash culture. Mid-April found Seto in San Francisco appearing at the NEW PEOPLE building during the Cherry Blossom Festival. It seemed as good a time as any to ask her some questions about her obsessions and her daily life. Occasionally breaking for swigs on a glass Coca-Cola bottle, and with multiple oversized bags of candy in her event horizon, Seto seemed right at home even though she was half a world away from her usual Harajuku haunts. Here’s how our conversation went…
Hi! Please introduce yourself and tell us what you do.
Hi, I’m Ayumi Seto. I’m 21 years old. I’m a model and a designer and I love America.
What exactly is your level of involvement with the BATTY GIRLS apparel line? Do you design the clothes and accessories yourself?
I start by illustrating the outfits. Next, I focus on each item, and then draw each one of them. Then I take photos of the fabric I want to use, and have someone make a mockup. So I pretty much work on the initial designs.
What are some of your favorite items in the BATTY GIRLS line?
There is a varsity jacket made out of shiny satin with yellow, red, and blue colors. It also has a tiger and a hamburger on it.
What kind of people are attracted to the BATTY GIRLS style in Japan?
Girls in Harajuku who read fashion magazines like “Zipper”.
We don’t really have “Kidz” style in the USA. Can you explain what the appeal is?
I feel like girls are more attractive when they look childish or child-like. If you mix innocent things, like pop colors and childish hair (like twin-tails), with grown up items, that becomes fashion. I’m still thinking about what the appeal is.
A lot of kids around the world are now looking to Asia for style inspiration: places like Japan and Korea, but the BATTY GIRLS line seems deeply inspired by American pop culture. Why is that?
First of all, I love American culture. I love the time period when America was becoming more economically powerful and everything had pop colors; things that people think of as “All-American”. I feel that, maybe they don’t look for it consciously, but Asian girls love American culture and pop culture deep inside. That’s why they are attracted to BATTY GIRLS and that’s where in the influence comes from.
I get a deep nostalgic feeling from the BATTY GIRLS clothing and the photo shoots you do. They’re filled with vintage things like ‘50s style diners and vinyl LPs. What kind of inspiration does the past give you?
When I started modeling, I had to put together my own outfits to be photographed. I had to train myself to know what I liked in order to style myself. While doing that, I realized that I love a lot of American used clothing and from there, I started to branch out. I already loved American movies, and then I started liking American used clothing, and then I branched out to pop culture. I can’t really explain what it does to me, but I’m just totally obsessed with the design and fashion of that time period.
You mentioned liking American films. Which ones are some of your favorites?
Grease (1978), American Graffiti (1973), Cry Baby (1990), and Rock ‘n Roll High School (1979). And one more, although it’s not really a fashion inspiration for me, Back to the Future (1985).
I guess we should talk about Japan, too… How would you describe Harajuku these days?
The scene in Harajuku these days is driven more by individuality instead of fashion rules. Girls there dress up not to be evaluated by others – for example, being popular among boys – but because it is what they like. So there’s no genre right now. There’s no single style that can describe everything available there now, and that’s a positive thing.
You seem super busy these days. Can you describe what a typical day is like for you?
I wake up in the morning (laughs). I usually go to the press room at my agency’s office and take pictures of what I’m wearing that day or go over clothing that is available that day. I’ll put together a coordinated outfit and take pictures and post them on SNS sites like Twitter, Instagram, and my website. In the evening, there’s a lot of meetings about things like merchandising for BATTY GIRLS, or if there’s an upcoming event, we hold meetings about it. Other times, I’ll work on my own stuff, like designs for my brand or putting together coordinated outfit sets. I usually don’t finish working until about 11pm.
You’ve spent quite a bit of time in California and the USA now. What are your impressions?
I love it here so much! I really want to live here!
What are some things you like to do here that you can’t do in Japan?
I can eat pancakes all the time (laughs)! I love food… If I’m living in the USA, I can go to flea markets and find vintage American furniture and toys that would be a lot more expensive in Japan and collect them.
I feel like when I am in Japan, it can feel small and kind of suffocating. A lot of people are uptight, always in a rush and under stress. But I feel like American people have a lot more freedom and they have space to stretch out, mentally as well as physically. There’s more freedom compared to Japan and I’d rather have that.
Often, there’s a lot of food in your photo shoots like burgers, pizza, and soda pop. What is it like working under those conditions?
The image character for my brand is named Aymmy. She is a fictional character, she’s not associated with me at all, and this girl is basically care-free. She doesn’t care about dieting or getting beauty sleep, so she is always hanging out in bed eating junk food, playing video games, and then falling asleep like that. I want to convey that kind of free-spirited image with my brand, so I tend to bring a lot of food to the photo shoots and…I eat them, too.
There’s countless hamburger pictures on your Instagram… how do Japanese burgers compare to US ones?
I think the beef in the USA is definitely different than in Japan. It tastes more meaty and it tastes better. Sometimes the Japanese burgers will have more fancy things, like better vegetables or a gourmet bun, but the patty in a US burger definitely tastes better.
Can you recommend a good burger in Japan?
There’s an old-fashioned American style diner called AS Classics Diner in Komazawa and the interior is very retro and classic. I used their burgers to cater my brand exhibition event. Can you recommend a place for me to get a burger in San Francisco?
It’s Tops on Market Street. It’s a diner that has been in business in San Francisco since 1935 and the burgers are really good…simple, but good.
Finally, do you have a special message for our readers?
If you love Japan, Akihabara is always fun to visit, but please visit Harajuku. Please have more interest in Harajuku style because Japan has many unique fashion styles.
Ayumi Seto links
Official blog (Japanese)
Aymmy in the Batty Girls links
Official Site (English)