Hello everyone! I know that this is kind of a late notice and random but I would just like to post this entry I have been wanting to write and share for a long time here. I guess many people are still wondering… Who are these girls behind the Kawaii.PH project? And why are they promoting “kawaii” in the Philippines?
I would just like to give a background on how we started this growing community / platform by sharing a bit of information from our side. This is going to be lengthy (prepare yourself, haha) since I will be sharing some behind-the-scene narration. I guess I will start narrating all way back..? Back to a dream.. a dream that a young girl had in Manila.
Okay.. Let me start this again.
My name is Kaila Ocampo, a 23 yr. old Advertising Management graduate from DLSU (year 2011), who decided to pursue her lifelong Japanese dream in the land of the rising sun and cherry blossom trees right after doing her thesis. I’ve had many failed attempts to reach my “Japan dream” because of financial problems in the family. I’m not exactly the brightest student in class so getting scholarships had always been a tough job for me but I never gave up on my dream until “luck” landed on my lap and my brother in Japan has decided to sponsor a year of my language school program in Bunka Institute of Language (sister school of the top fashion school: Bunka Fashion College) after saving up some funds. Going to a school where everyone takes everyday effort to look their best was definitely an inspiring phase for me.
While I was learning Nihongo, I sent an email to TokyoFashion.com (#1 Harajuku-based Online Fashion Magazine dedicated to street snaps, with almost 1 million fans on facebook!) asking for a possible internship under them. Fortunately, I was accepted and I was able to create and produce videos (and sometimes contribute photographs) through their well-established platform in the web. My work was then introduced through their channel and I was privileged to meet Sebastian Matsuda (6% DOKIDOKI Creator), Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Kuma Miki, and many Harajuku fashion idols in Tokyo. I have always loved “Kawaii” since my Cardcaptor Sakura days back in elementary but because I was getting so much inspiration and exposure through different projects, I began to love the Japanese kawaii culture more and more. Every after “Harajuku KAWAii” or KAWAii! MATSURi event I would attend, I would think to myself.. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have something like this in the Philippines as well?” Ang saya siguro.
Illustration by Little Miss Paintbrush
Because of blogging my daily life in Japan (and sharing kawaii photospams), I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities. Out of boredom (and because I would always find myself having lots of free time though I’ve started working in a company as well), I joined contests in NHK World Kawaii International program. I got a special award and eventually, I became a “Harajuku Reporter” in an episode.
Who knew that after proclaiming myself as a “Kawaii Lifestyle Blogger,” it would lead to one opportunity to another? After the gigs and a couple of blog posts, I was chosen to represent the Philippines as the Kawaii Leader together with Eva Cheung, Stella Lee, Marie Zannou and Mio.
The experience really inspired me and I felt like I was given a baton to pass around to other “kawaii girls / leaders” in my country, the Philippines. I knew that my mission as a “Kawaii Leader” should not just stop there… and being chosen as a Kawaii Leader was definitely not a one-time experience or an achievement I could brag about on my blog / to my family and friends. For me, it was something more. Maybe I was chosen because this is my passion / purpose in life? To spread happiness by sharing the kawaii lifestyle to others? Those were my thoughts after the life-changing week during the Tokyo Kawaii Leaders Project. And this is why I also decided to stay 6 months in the Philippines last year. The initial reason was for something else but during my whole stay in the Philippines (after convincing my brother that I had a mission to accomplish — to spread “kawaii” using my experience and connections in Japan, by hook or by crook), I have never felt so fulfilled in my life. I think that I have found what I would like to do in the next years.
Luckily, I have friends who also share the same passion and vision that I do. Before the Kawaii Leaders project, I have been talking to my (used-to-be online) friend Anne, about how wonderful it would be to have a “Kawaii Convention” just like the ones I experience here every season. And we would just daydream about it together via LINE. I talked to her that she should be more aggressive to promote Kyary Pamyu Pamyu in the Philippines! In Japan, Kyary-chan is like the version of Katy Perry / Lady and I believe that she has great appeal to everyone of any age because of her signature fashion and music! True enough, after months of hard work despite having professional jobs, we were able to produce together with Warner Music Philippines and Odyssey Music & Video, the first album launch and fan gathering of Kyary!
Photo by Justin De Jesus
While all of these were just dreams and we were just daydreaming about our kawaii plans (and Anne was still employed in another company working as a graphic designer), I have already setup a worldwide project two of my friends (ChiChi and Mishie) and I worked on for many months.
It is called Japan Lover Me (you can read the story here) and as of the moment, we have gained almost 260,000+ Kawaii / Cool / Otaku JapanLovers around the world. During the first month of our launch, we were able to gather 50,000 people!
Because of JapanLover.me’s worldwide launch success, I gained more confidence in promoting “kawaii” locally in the Philippines.
During my short vacation in the Philippines (prior to the long one), I gathered and called out my friends who share the same passion over cuteness. “Kawaii in Manila” team was then formed. I took advantage of my achievement as a Kawaii Leader (although honestly, I was really not that confident I had enough following to convince kawaii girls from my country) and risked my time, personal savings and called all my creative friends who could contribute to our first project, “The Kawaii Lifestyle Workshop“. ChiChi (a.k.a. Little Miss Paintbrush, who also illustrates for Summit Media’s Total Girl), Reese (a recognized and multi-awarded visual artist, designer and musician!), Anne (KPP PH founder & creative designer) and I spent 3 months conceptualizing, promoting, brainstorming, and everything.
Documentation by Shutter Panda Photography
We had many hurdles and obstacles, and some even found the project “shady” or something like that. There were times I even doubted if it would come true. Even if we were not so sure that it would work out perfectly as planned, getting moral support overseas and with people telling us to continue it, the workshop became our first successful project (as you can see from the photos above! more here~)! We were so happy! The blood, sweat, and money from our pockets were all worth of it all. That time, we were all doing our own separate work / gigs. We thought to ourselves- “What more if we can have more focus on this?“ (◡‿◡✿)
.. On Growing Bigger.
Kawaii PH participated in one of the biggest cosplay conventions (Cosplay Mania) as an exhibitor!
We took a break and reexamined what we could still do with the growing community of “kawaii”. There was a demand for a continuation; hence, we thought of starting to dream bigger and bigger by planning for “Kawaii Philippines” website relaunch (before, www.kawaii.ph was only a homepage for the kawaii lifestyle workshop). And it happened last December, with two more girls (Mikee and Kaye!) as our additional teammates.
From then on, we have also collaborated with Philippine brands and Japanese companies. Many influential (local + international) kawaii girls also fancied the idea and contacted us to contribute and share a piece of their work. Recently, we were featured in a Japanese news website as well. Until now, it is still pretty overwhelming for all of us. Ever since we started to promote and go all-out, the shy girls who used to visit us are now slowly gaining self-confidence and are more expressive of themselves through kawaii fashion. And for us, that is the best feeling in the world– to be able to inspire and motivate another person that “it is perfectly okay to be who you are“. In the Philippines, we all know that most of the time, the adventurous people are the only ones who can dress up the way that they want. And that is one of our missions / goals (you may read our brief here), that everyone, whether you are the adventurous type or not, can also enjoy the kawaii lifestyle and cute fashion. You do not have to be rich / well-off / young as 18 to enjoy such happy lifestyle. This is for everyone. Kawaii is definitely universal.
I guess that this is what passion does to anyone. The universe will decide to conspire on its own to make your plans and crazy dreams into reality if… there is hard work + effective team work.
Here at Kawaii.PH, our work formula is:
Love for kawaii culture
Passion-fueled mission to share happiness
Pursuit of creative excellence.
And everyday, through our light-hearted posts/ cute updates on our facebook and other online accounts, we strive for excellence by doing our best (“Gambattemasu” in Japanese) in sharing the kawaii lifestyle through social media.
After my well-spent 6 months in the Philippines, I had to go back here in Japan to continue my work. I am relieved that I have my teammates back at home to continue what I had started even if I have to work here and build more connections. We have ongoing projects such as “Kawaii.PH Looks“, “Kawaii-fy Your Life Blog Series“, “Kawaii Song Composition by Reese + Kawaii Girls” and later on.. “A Kawaii World by Kawaii.PH Bloggers“. As of now, we are also working to create and produce the happiest convention in Manila for every cute / Japan culture loving fan– Kawaii in Manila 2: The First Kawaii Convention in the Philippines (or possibly in Southeast Asia? :D). This convention is still a grand plan and we know that there are many challenges we have to face in order to turn these images in our head into a reality, but we will do our 1000% best to make this come to life! : )
… Thank You.
I know that for a “late welcome and gratitude letter”, this is quite weird (honestly, I do not know if the subject / title fits, haha!) but I would just like to share how far we have come.. from a dream, to a reality, to another dream.. and so forth.
To my creative team, all of our loyal kawaii supporters, and to the people who have generously contributed their precious time in helping us spread the happy kawaii culture in the Philippines (and also in the whole world I guess?).. Thank you so much. Maraming salamat po!
We admit that we have a long way to go ..
.. but one thing is for sure,
.. it will be more fun if you are to join this ride with us!
Let’s spread kawaii, shall we?
Love all the way from the Philippines and Japan,
Kawaii .PH Founder