INTERVIEW: h.NAOTO @ Anime Expo 2015

Well known avant-garde Japanese punk & Gothic Lolita fashion designer, h.NAOTO aka Naoto Hirooka, returned to Anime Expo this year to electrify crowd with his newest line and a very special guest, Shinya of DIR EN GREY, who modeled the designs as he made his debut on the catwalk as seen in the Fashion Show event. Read on to get inside the mind of this inspiring master creator!

VKH: It's been a while since your last appearance at Anime Expo! What are you excited to see this time?

h.NAOTO: One of the exciting things is that I had a chance to collaborate with Shinya from Dir En Grey. I have been to many anime conventions, but Anime Expo is a big part of my heart.

VKH: How did you and Shinya meet? What caused you two to start working together, initially? 

h.NAOTO: I’ve known him for a while. I’ve met him in private events in a social setting. But the very first time Shinya approached me for fashion was last year at VAMPS' Halloween Party. Shinya asked me to make his costumes for that, and that was our first time working together.

VKH: Could you tell us something about your upcoming collaboration with Capcom for Dai Gyakuten Saiban ( Large Ace Attorney)?

h.NAOTO: This time is not the very first time I have done a collaboration with a game company, and this will not be the end, meaning I cannot share all the information yet, but the collaboration this time with Capcom is the first of the series that I am involved with. How this collaboration came about was because of the character named Iris Watson in the story. The way she dresses herself shares the same sense as my fashion. That is how we came about doing the collaboration together and there will be more coming up.

VKH: How do you usually go about making new products? (From the point they are first planned, to when they are finally showcased)

h.NAOTO: Usually, I just sit and draw whatever is on my mind. However, for projects when there is a specific theme that a client requests of me, such as the collaboration with Capcom, I accommodate them as much as I can. I believe they have their share of concepts, so I try not to put too much of myself and accommodate their needs the most.

VKH: Where does your inspiration usually come from?

h.NAOTO: Of course, I have received a lot of my inspiration from anime & movies. And I’m not sure if I should say this because sometimes it gets misinterpreted, but I want to share that recently I have been inspired by watching fashion shows of veterans of the fashion industry such as John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, and designers from Chanel. The reason why I didn’t want to share that was because before I thought I was in a different world compared to those big name designers because I’m Japanese and I have a different set of senses for fashion. I put the videos in a playlist on Youtube and play it on my iPad. Instead of background music, I play it throughout the day and I let myself appreciate & respect those veterans in the fashion industry.

VKH: You also plan on releasing new products during Anime Expo! Will we get to see them during the fashion show?

h.NAOTO: I do have a new set of products and will also incorporate them in the fashion show. I just started merchandising in America and STEAM is part of the newest line. It has been the center of my fashion shows in the previous three conventions I have participated in. However, this time, I decided to bring out other elements that have been around for a long time which have been embedded in my line such as Gothic and Punk. This time the fashion show at Anime Expo will be a mix of all the elements of what makes h.NAOTO.

VKH: What caused this Steam Punk influence in your clothing?

h.NAOTO: If you call it a coincidence, I must say it is a coincidence. Or in other words, it might be destiny.  Up into 2010, I’ve had the same ideas that I’d already had, like Gothic Lolita. That’s how FRILL came about, I would mix and match around within the same categories. There is this mall, Laforet in Harajuku, that is targeted to the younger generation and it’s like the mecca of Harajuku fashion. They had requested for me to open a new shop for h.NAOTO, but they didn’t want it to be another shop, they wanted another theme. They requested for me to come up with something new, but keeping the taste of h.NAOTO. After a lot of trial and error, that’s how I came up with STEAM in 2013.

VKH: Is h.NAOTO STEAM a way of crossing all of your known styles? (Steam Punk, vampire and Gothic Lolita)

h.NAOTO: One of the main images of steam punk is that it’s like surreal and that was the main concept, so everything derived from the basic elements of punk and Gothic Lolita, but is just portrayed in a different line which is STEAM.

VKH: Do you have any future plans that you would like to share?

h.NAOTO: I would love to share all the information, but I’m not allowed to disclose it yet. One thing I can tell you is that I’m planning to go to as many different countries as possible. I believe it’s very important for people in Japan to go out there and introduce Japanese culture along with the fashion. That’s what I want to do and I strongly believe in that.

VKH: Thank you for your time! Would you please leave a message for our readers and your fans?

h.NAOTO: I want to come here to America as many times as I can to interact with the fans, and I want the fans to be a part of the promotion of h.NAOTO. Thank you.

You can follow him on twitter: @hirookanaoto
Or visit the official website:

Thanks for reading!
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