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My New Obsession: Tokidoki and Kawaii

09.08.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis / @Zara.Tokiniha

Thanks to Suzanne of the Lavender Likes, Loves, Finds & Dreams… blog I was able to finally articulate my latest obsession: all things known as kawaii—an adjective in Japanese, which means pretty, cute, lovely, charming, dear, darling, or pet and stems from the two kanji words “can love;” it’s the quality of cuteness in the context of Japanese culture, and is commonly used to describe “cute” and “adorable” pieces of Japanese popular culture, clothing, food, toys, behaviour, and even personal appearance.

I have always been attracted to all things kawaii though I was never aware there was an actual term to describe the quality of the things I loved. My best assumption was that the origin of what I really liked simply stemmed from a general, Asian influence. When I discovered the term, kawaii, a whole world of Japanese/Asian “cuteness” literally exploded before me and I soon realized that I wasn’t alone in my own desire to collect and share my love of kawaii goodies. I soon discovered (and gladly so) that there is a large, devoted kawaii collective that is just as passionate as I am about this deeply embedded Asian context and style.

I kid you not, though most would presume that lovers of kawaii are all under the age of 12. And believe me when I tell you, I’m a lot older than that—and a lot older than I actually look. So, no. We may be obsessed with the cuteness of doll-like figures, the bursting fluff of anime characters-turned-plush-toy, or the rage that is Sanrio, but we’re pretty mature in the serious dedication we have to our own personal collections. At least I do.  And I also fulfill one of the kawaii lovers’ given stereotypes especially since the products and the social culture of kawaii is so successfully marketed towards Asians. Yes, I’m Asian (surprise)!

Still that doesn’t deter me from proudly joining what I call, The Kawaii Collective, and its craze, nor does it stop me from nurturing my slow, but steady collection of kawaii stuff. And when I say, stuff, I mean STUFF. All kinds of it. From Hello Kitty vintage, Sailor Moon and My Little Pony keychains, MocMoc bobbleheads, Momiji dolls, rolls of decorative tape and stationery, puffy rainbow stickers, to an extensive variety of Unicorno vinyl toys.

Which leads me to how I discovered my latest craze—Tokidoki. As soon as I discovered it when browsing photos on Instagram, I instantly fell in love with its colourful prints, a collage of a number of kawaii characters created by creative designer, Simone Legno.

Legno, along with his partners, Pooneh Mohajer and Ivan Arnold, created the brand of Tokidoki in 2003 in Los Angeles, California—a brand that has exploded into apparel, handbags, cosmetics, accessories, toys, and more.

It has, by agreement and understanding of kawaii lovers everywhere, proclaimed its justifiable cult status. And yes, while I have always professed to snub elitism; my fashion palette and kawaii sensibility have both succumbed to joining the cult that is known and beloved by all Tokidoki followers. (You can follow me on Instagram here.)

I did indeed gasp at the sight of Tokidoki because…well…because I’m MAD for it, much to the expectation and frustration of my Instagram followers who have had to endure a number of my kawaii and Tokidoki posts.

For my fellow kawaii-loving friends and Tokidoki brothers and sisters, here are a couple of new items that I’ve procured for your visual devouring:

Han Ling liquid eyeliner, blue geisha, red geisha. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. On Instagram @Zara.Tokiniha. All rights reserved.
Han Ling liquid eyeliner, blue geisha, red geisha. Not only are they cute, the brush is more like a sharp stick that helps keep the line clean. Its back print says, “Love” on it. Part of my kawaii cosmetic collection. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. On Instagram @zara.tokiniha. All rights reserved.

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Tokidoki duffel bag. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. On Instagram @Zara.Tokiniha. All rights reserved.
My very first Tokidoki purchase, a Tokidoki duffel bag. “With Devotion or Zeal” print. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. On Instagram @zara.tokiniha. All rights reserved.

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Mashi Maro notebooks and kawaii pen. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. On Istagram @Zara.Tokiniha. All rights reserved.
Mashi Maro notebooks and kawaii pen from my recent visit to Chinatown in downtown Toronto. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. On Istagram @zara.tokiniha. All rights reserved.

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Tokidoki wallet pouch, green. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. On Instagram @Zara.Tokiniha. All rights reserved.
My Tokidoki wallet pouch, green. “Save the Planet” print. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. On Instagram @zara.tokiniha. All rights reserved.

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Momiji doll, red geisha. Kawaii. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. On Instagram @zara.tokiniha. All rights reserved.
My newest Momiji Doll, red geisha. Kawaii. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. On Instagram @zara.tokiniha. All rights reserved.

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Tokidoki knapsack, green. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. On Instagram @zara.tokiniha. All rights reserved.
My second Tokidoki bag, a knapsack, green. “Save the Planet” print. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. On Instagram @zara.tokiniha. All rights reserved.

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MocMoc bubblehead, kawaii. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. On Instagram @zara.tokiniha. All rights reserved.
MocMoc bubblehead, kawaii beside my Tokidoki print, “Seamless Repeating.” (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. On Instagram @zara.tokiniha. All rights reserved.

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Tokidoki wallet pouch, blue. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. On Instagram @zara.tokiniha. All rights reserved.
My matching Tokidoki wallet pouch, blue. “With Devotion or Zeal” print. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. On Instagram @zara.tokiniha. All rights reserved.

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The Tokidoki brand has within it a number of kawaii characters belonging to a sub-brand with a back story.

Here are a few of my favourite characters from Tokidoki and their stories:

SANDy:

tokidoki - sandySANDy of Cactus Friends zips herself into a cactus suit as a form of armor to face the cold and frightening world. As a representation of the cactus, she represents conservation and purity of water, a source of life.

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Donutella:

tokidoki - donutellaDonutella of the Donutella and Her Sweet Friends series is from a planet where sugar is used as energy. When scouting for fuel in her donut UFO, she discovered Earth and the large amounts of sweets that she couldn’t resist building a sweet colony here instead of returning to her planet. She now calls Earth her home. And boy, does she make me want to eat a donut.

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Dolce:

 tokidoki - dolce***

Prima Donna:

tokidoki - prima donnaPrima Donna of the Unicornos was once a pony who just happened to cross a magic waterfall—and ta-dah! Poof! Just like that, she was transformed into one of the many unicornos who discovered a magic kingdom on the other side.  Unicornos now live between the magic kingdom and our world. (I love her because she’s not only a unicorn with a crown, she’s also somewhat of a diva. You go, Girl…er…I mean Unicorno!)

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Mozzarella and Bulletto:

tokidoki - mozzarella and bullettoMozzarella and Bulletto are both part of the Moofia, a group of sweet renegades assigned to take milk from bullies in the lunch cafeteria or school yard. These guys are loving and kind to the good kids and cute, too, but make no mistake about it—if you’re a bully, they have guns and they’re not afraid to use them. Their aim? Protect the innocent, give them milk to help them grow strong and healthy.

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Latte:

tokidoki - latteLatte of the Moofia is…well…a latte. And you know how I can’t resist one of those! He’s part of the gang, but he doesn’t believe in guns. Only a high volume of calcium. He may be cute and totally kawaii, but this milk-guy will seriously kick some bully butt. Milk is what makes our teeth and bones strong, right?And boy, it is moo-a-liscious!

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 Are you familiar and/or a fan of kawaii and/or Tokidoki?

Do you own any kawaii and/or Tokidoki pieces in a collection?

Who is your favourite kawaii and/or Tokidoki character and why?

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 zara - tokidoki glow

The Life-Lessons Are Out (20 of Them) with the Fight between the ETFO and Bill 115

zara alexis sad avatar

The Life-Lessons Are Out (20 of Them)

with the Fight between the ETFO and Bill 115

01.12.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

The irony of Bill 115 is that it’s known to be the  Putting Students First Act, which gives the government the power to impose a contract on teachers if their school boards fail to negotiate a new collective agreement by a set deadline.

That deadline was December 31.

And unfortunately no new agreement was made at that time, which led to the Liberal government of Ontario to choose to impose a two-year contract  that enforces elementary and high school teachers to have their wages frozen until 2014 and no longer be able to bank their sick days for retirement.

The imposition is, of course, powered by Bill 115 itself, and while teachers and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) disagree with it as a loss to their right to the democratic process of collective bargaining, the Minister of Education, Laurel Broten, announced that she will repeal Bill 115—but the reality is, not after the power it uses to impose the two-year contract that has recently been put into place.

It’s much like being coerced into lowering your weapon—that is, after you’ve already used it.

So, in response to the imposition of the teachers’ contracts, their frozen wages, and discontinuation of bankable sick days (and probably a lot more that I’m unaware of because I haven’t read it yet), the ETFO and its teachers have promised to continue to protest through job action.

And that was obvious with their plans to officially stage “a one-day political protest aimed at the government on January 11,” where parents were told to refrain from sending their child(ren) to school since (in my case) all Peel board elementary schools from Kindergarten to Grade 8 would be closed.

Parents like myself received notice of this on the afternoon of January 9th in letter-form from the Peel District School Board, only a day and a few hours before the protest was planned to take place—which meant last-minute scrambling for alternative care for our children in lieu of board-wide school closures.

And even though I was one of the luckier parents to suffer less because I’m already a Stay-at-Home-Mom (SAHM) with my three-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son, the interaction and decisions made as a result between the Ontario government and ETFO have certainly made it difficult for parents, children, and the community at large.

But the story doesn’t end there.

As a rebuttal to the ETFO’s effort in protesting against the government through board-wide school closures on the premise they could not “ensure the safety of students on the day of protest”—which they technically did not and could not call a “strike”—was met by the Premier, Dalton McGuinty’s quick action to seek a cease-and-desist order from the Ontario Labour Relations Board in what has now been deemed “an illegal strike.”

Call it what you will from either party—the ultimate losers of this labour battle are the children of which Bill 115 is called to protect and of whom teachers are called to educate.

In an even quicker (but not quick enough) response, the ETFO called off the planned walkout by teachers because the labour tribunal ruled the action would indeed be illegal. But ETFO did this at 4:00 a.m. on the proposed day of the protest, which left some parents, children, and families of school boards, notice of the change as late as 7:15 am, Friday morning.

You can imagine the uproar. The scramble. The confusion. And ultimately, the lack of communication and consideration given to Ontario parents, caregivers, and the children themselves—who had just spent the last 24 hours attempting to accommodate the needs of their children through alternative care and/or activities at the expense of their own wallets, time, and inconvenience—only, of course, to have the decision over-turned at the last-minute.

It’s a much more complex issue than arguing on behalf of labour rights versus implementing more control through financial ceilings in order to manage a $15 billion Ontario deficit. Nor is it just about inconveniencing parents for one or two days.

It is, however, about what lessons are really being taught to our children today on behalf of what has been said to be something ultimately in their favour—but is, in essence, not.

While we opt as a society to readily advocate inclusion, rights, and a protection of rights as well as the importance of fiscal responsibility—while those arguments are true, they have unfortunately moved to the forefront of an active duel between parties that have the power to hold parents and most especially, children, hostage in the educational sector.

In lieu of most recent strikes, one on December 11 and again, the planned, but cancelled “protest,” exactly a month later; this is how children and their parents have been affected (or threatened to be affected):

  • board-wide bus service cancellation
  • Before-School, After-School, and extended day programs offered by third-party providers cancelled
  • Hubs, Readiness Centres, Parenting & Family Literacy Centres closed to students and families
  • some, if not all, extra-curricular activities cancelled
  • missed days of school
  • ultimately gaps in opportunities for learning and access to curriculum and education

And with the recent imposition of contracts through Bill 115 and the even more recent ruling of the one-day political protest as an illegal strike, children are faced with:

  • teachers forced to return to work under contracts that were not collectively bargained for
  • potentially disgruntled teachers who are not only responsible for education in the classroom, but have direct contact with children and the outcome of choices made by the schools they work in as either directed by their union or themselves
  • the cancellation of some, if not all, extra-curricular activities and student privileges
  • a potentially negative or toxic working environment
  • continual protest and battle between the ETFO and the liberal government concerning Bill 115

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What the real life-lessons parents, children, and those that live in Ontario are “learning” through this “educational” process:

1. You have a right to feel entitled.

2. If you don’t like something, complain.

3. If your complaints are not being listened to or addressed in the way you would like, complain louder, more often, and for a longer time.

4. If you’re upset enough, just leave. And ask everyone you know to leave with you.

5. Negatively impact people who are not directly involved in your argument as pressure points to your opposition in order to gain leverage in your argument.

6. Saving money is more important than saving relationships.

7. Take sides.

8. It’s important to win an argument. Use all the power you have to win yours. (This is especially helpful if you’re already powerful enough to begin with.)

9. The tighter the pull, the more control you have.

10. The law is the law is the law—so long as it suits your purposes.

11. Shakespeare was wrong with: “What’s in a name?”—Apparently everything. Because you can change it and call it something else—and then somehow it is.

12. If you can’t make someone do something willingly, force him instead. And then make it legal.

13. Rebel for your cause. Then don’t rebel (the very next day) because it might cost you something more than your cause…like $2,000 x 76,000, for example.

14. The legalism of the law is more important than the spirit of the law and those of its people, which it is intended to protect.

15. Inconvenience others at the cost of putting yourself and your needs first.

16. Bullying is not allowed in schools or playgrounds. It is, however, allowed at the bargaining table and in courts.

17. Your decisions and actions don’t affect others negatively or at all— because they’re yours. And you’re entitled.

18. Parents should speak to their Human Resource representatives at work and ask them to implement or extend bankable sick days—because parents may need them to stay home if and when there is a last-minute teacher protest or strike. Or not. But, just in case.

19. Extra-curricular activities and student privileges are not important in the educational system because they are not mandatory.

20. Home-schooling is a viable option.

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