a burgundy zine

Kicking it Kawaii Style with MomoKumo

By: burgundy bug

MomoKumo at the Rilakkuma pop up shop in Times Square, New York

Source: Rilakkuma Store Feat. MomoKumo // PT. II | Penelope Peru Photography p3

Model and social media influencer MomoKumo is living proof that being a mom doesn’t make you any less of a kawaii queen.

Although her admiration of Japanese culture has been ever present throughout her life, it wasn’t until recently that she began turning her passion into a career.

In the spirit of The Burgundy Zine’s culture issue, MomoKumo and I sat down for an interview in her studio on Saturday to discuss her love for kawaii fashion and her experiences in the community.

MomoKumo in her studio

Source: Hey my sweet peaches!… | MomoKumo

How long have you been apart of the kawaii community?

For about a decade now.

Even when I wasn’t dressing in kawaii fashion, I still felt apart of something bigger than myself.

I used to wear the color black a lot because I struggled with my body dysmorphia, but I loved seeing other people dress in kawaii fashion.

I love the color schemes, so in last few years I’ve started dipping into experimenting with my own wardrobe.

What sparked your interest in Japanese culture? How did you begin exploring kawaii fashion?

Anime, anime, anime!

I feel like everyone has definitely had a moment where they’ve drawn influence from anime. For me, I’d have to say magical girl animes – like Sailor Moon – definitely inspired me because they’re dressed up in cute outfits and there to save the world.

Before I could afford to buy kawaii clothing on Etsy, I’d get colorful, pastel skirts and jewelry from Hot Topic.

Where is your favorite place to buy clothing now? Do you have any favorite merchants in particular?

Definitely Etsy, but I also enjoy Cherry Pop and Ocean Space.

One of my favorite kawaii merchants online is Miss Candyholic, who I recently got a package from.

All of these shops are in their own genre of kawaii. Some are really into the pastel colors, while others really like the neon colors.

Another merchant I like is really into Yami Kawaii, which is all about mental health, syringes, and bandages.

What do you think it means to be kawaii?

MomoKumo outside of the Rilakkuma pop up shop in Times Square, New York

Source: Rilakkuma Store Feat. MomoKumo // PT. I | Penelope Peru Photography P³

A lot of things.

I feel like kawaii could be defined in many ways, coming from everyone’s individual experiences. We all dress in different variations of the style.

Personally, I like to experiment with all forms of kawaii, particularly Yami Kawaii.

I don’t follow any “rules or guidelines” for fashion. I’m a kawaii mom and I throw together a look based on how I’m feeling.

In my eyes, kawaii goes beyond “being cute.” I think it’s standing for what you want to wear and what you love, because a lot of people might look at you and think you’re a bit weird.

In reality, you’re just like any other person who enjoys expressing themselves through fashion.

MomoKumo

Who are some of your favorite kawaii mascots (I.E. Rilakkuma, Sanrio characters, LINE Friends, BT21, and so on)?

MomoKumo holding one of her Korilakkuma plushies

Source: Interview with MomoKumo | Penelope Peru Photography p3

I love, love, love, love Korilakkuma, if you haven’t noticed all of my little babies [holds up three Korilakkuma plushies].

I like Sanx anyways, with all of their characters. They’re really cute!

Since [Sanx] came out with the Rilakkuma show on Netflix, it’s been really pleasant to watch Rilakkuma come to life, bop around, and be adventurous.

MomoKumo at the Rilakkuma pop up shop in Times Square, New York

Source: Rilakkuma Store Feat. MomoKumo // PT. II | Penelope Peru Photography P³

Who are some of your biggest inspirations in the kawaii community?

Pixielocks. She has been a huge part of my kawaii journey.

It’s funny, because I’m older than her, but I still look up to her. Everybody thinks you have to look up to someone who’s older than you, but for me, Pixielocks really represents everything in our community.

She’s also brought the community together with the Confetti Club, which is huge because I’ve met a lot of my close friends through Pixielocks’ meet and greets.

Pixielocks also stands for mental health, everything she loves to wear, and what she creates. Through interacting with everyone, she makes us feel like a family.

What’s something about kawaii culture that you feel is underappreciated?

MomoKumo and kawaii clown cosplayers on Sakura Sunday in Philadelphia

Source: Sakura Sunday 02 feat. MomoKumo | Penelope Peru Photography P³

The people! Behind each outfit is a person, and others don’t always realize that when they’re leaving comments online.

Everyone likes to compliment each other, but no one realizes how long it takes to come up with a look and how stressful it is to piece together.

Some comments can also be really hurtful, or spun the wrong way. I for one have grown a little fan base, and I find that some people tend to forget I’m more than just a model. I’m a person. I don’t just throw clothes on for entertainment.

MomoKumo behind a polaroid of Burgundy Bug at the Rilakkuma pop up shop in Times Square, New York

Source: Rilakkuma Store Feat. MomoKumo // PT. II | Penelope Peru Photography P³

What have you found has been most fulfilling about being apart of the community?

Helping others with their mental health.

Those who aren’t involved in the kawaii community think we’re all just really happy all the time, when many of us really do struggle with our mental health.

In the kawaii community, sometimes we express ourselves by putting a nice look together to try to feel happy – even if we feel upset inside or really depressed. Beneath it all, we have our family problems, our personal issues with ourselves.

Being able to help others has been a huge part of my journey. Outside of the outfits and makeup I wear or the pictures I put out there, mental health is my number one priority.

When you first began exploring kawaii fashion, did you ever think you would be able to make a career out of being a model and influencer in the community?

No, not at all.

I would see all of these influencers – for example, Pixielocks, who also struggled with her body image, but I’d see her and think she was beautiful and a goddess. I kept comparing myself to her and other models that I love.

Then I realized that I really can’t do that, otherwise I won’t do what I love.

I never thought I’d have the opportunity to work with smaller businesses, which is really important because I want to see everyone grow in my journey.

It’s a great feeling, because it’s helping me with my confidence.

How do you feel about the kawaii community, online and offline?

MomoKumo behind yellow bars in Times Square, New York

Source: MomoKumo Behind (Yellow) Bars | Penelope Peru Photography P³

Online, I love it and kind of hate it.

A lot of people are very judgemental and say that if you don’t wear certain clothes or brands that you’re not apart of the community.

I think anyone who says that really shouldn’t be involved in the kawaii culture. Just because they wear the aesthetic doesn’t mean they should be in the community.

The people in the community are all together, supporting each other, and fostering friendships.

Online it’s hard because people can comment whatever they want. Even if you block them, somehow people will find their way back in.

Offline, everyone I’ve come across has been very, very sweet, but very shy. It’s kind of hard when you want to build a friendship, but you’re both really shy and kind of nervous.

Needless to say, I’ve got my pros and cons for both [the online and offline community].

MomoKumo in Times Square, New York

Source: Times Square Feat. MomoKumo & XtaSeay | Penelope Peru Photography P³

Is there a dark side to the kawaii community hidden beneath the layers of pastel filters and awestriking merchandise?

Absolutely.

On an individual level, I fight with myself everyday. When it comes to others in the community, some don’t have the biggest hearts and like to belittle others.

A lot goes on behind closed doors that the public doesn’t see. In your direct messages, you might have people who want to work with you but slander you behind your back.

It’s hard to place trust in others. Trying to find friends is difficult when some people could be really sweet online and they’re not [in reality].

There’s conflict with others, as well as yourself, over “competing” with other people.

You shouldn’t be competing with anyone. Just wear whatever you want everyday and be happy about it.

MomoKumo

What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in building their wardrobe and getting involved in the community?

MomoKumo and Burgundy Bug putting on glitter makeup

Source: Glitter Gals | Penelope Peru Photography P³

Don’t just throw hundreds of dollars away. Start off small.

Go to thrifts stores and find pastel colors. You could even try to do-it-yourself (DIY) by learning how to make skirts or simple shirts through YouTube.

I, for one, prefered starting off small. I started with hair accessories, rings, and necklaces before getting bigger pieces.

That was the easiest way to go about it because we all have bills, we all have rent or mortgages, and life. Always make sure those things are taken care of before throwing hundreds of dollars away.

What impact do you hope your work has on the kawaii community?

MomoKumo gazing at a cherry blossom tree on Sakura Sunday in Philadelphia

Source: MomoKumo and the Cherry Blossom Tree | Penelope Peru Photography P³

I hope that everyone stops taking it so seriously and stops comparing themselves to everyone else.

I am the only MomoKumo, and I’m happy with that now.

I just want to see people feel comfortable in their own skin and not think that someone else looks better in what they’re wearing because that other person is thinner or thicker, or whatever the case may be.

I just want to help people love themselves.

MomoKumo

Do you have any goals, as a kawaii model and influencer? Where would you like to be in five years from now?

MomoKumo in her studio

Source: Interview with MomoKumo | Penelope Peru Photography P³

If I could really dive into experimenting with my makeup and creating my own clothes, I would love to do that – and maybe even go to school for it.

[Fashion] really is a passion of mine, and I see a lot of other people doing it. If they can do it, I can do it, too.

That’s my biggest dream that I hope becomes a reality.

Before we wrap things up, do you have any final thoughts or additional comments to share about kawaii fashion, culture, or your career?

Don’t be afraid to join the community!

We are not that bad. Even though I did answer some darker questions, many of us are very sweet and welcome newcomers with open arms.

We love bringing new people in that want to experiment with the style of clothing we wear [in the kawaii community].

Don’t be afraid of other people whose fashion flows with what’s considered “the norm.”

Just do your own thing and see how it goes for you.

Burgundy Bug holding up a peace sign over MomoKumo

Source: Interview with MomoKumo | Penelope Peru Photography P³

Stay tuned for the video interview on MomoKumo’s blog!

In the meantime, head on over to MomoKumo’s Instagram page to show our favorite kawaii mom a little love.


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burgundy bug

https://burgundyzine.com/about/#burgundybug

The bug behind the blog… A cynical optimist, burgundy bug is the editor, graphic designer, and main photographer for The Burgundy Zine. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it's got nothing on the bug. Her work embodies a wide variety of topics including: ecology, biology, neurology, cannabis, reviews, fashion, entertainment, and politics. If you are interested in learning more about the bug behind the blog or working with her, please visit our contact page.

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