Yuka Mizuhara is the next It girl DJ – and it’s got nothing to do with the fact that she’s Kiko’s kid sister. Together with Kenzo, Female shows off her infectious spirit and the brand’s cross cultural-influenced Kenzo La Collection Memento No. 2 capsule.
To completely avoid mentioning Yuka Mizuhara’s older sister Kiko in a profile about her seems almost impossible, especially if Google search results are anything to go by. But may the previous sentence be the last time that that happens, at least here in this story. Because it’d be nice for Yuka – four years younger and possibly at risk of suffering from some complex, what with her sibling’s immense beauty and fame. (Though from pictures and interviews, all she has for her onee-chan are adulation and respect.) And because Yuka, who also goes by the name Ashley Yuka Daniel (her birth name – dad’s American), can completely hold her own as a bona fide art/fashion star.
Flown to Singapore by Kenzo in April to DJ at the opening of the brand’s new boutique at
The Shoppes At Marina Bay Sands (#01-18) – her first overseas gig – the 23-year-old is as girlishly charming as she is Shibuya underground cool. At this shoot at Upper Peirce Reservoir on a scorching Thursday morning, she’s breezy, enthusiastic and – in typical Japanese fashion – exceedingly polite, snapping selfies and poking around the flora and fauna in between takes. “I feel good,” she chimes with a grin, her energy able to perk up even the most tired crew member.
Of the Kenzo collection she’s modelling, she says: “I love how it reflects the past of Japan.” Launched last year, Kenzo’s La Collection Memento – or Memento collection – is meant to revive and celebrate the nearly 50-year-old label’s archives. The latest edition No. 2, for example, is a throwback to the debut of Kenzo Jeans back in 1986, when founder Kenzo Takada fused Eastern influences into the utilitarian fabric popularly associated with the West.
The range includes kimono-inspired jackets and carpenter pants made from raw indigo, and tagged with labels featuring traditional Japanese motifs – among them, the Edo period woodblock print “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa”. There are also Hawaiian shirts and dresses with vintage Kenzo patterns like a vivid mishmash of bamboo and awning stripes. “I love how the prints are so familiar to all Japanese,” says Mizuhara.
This affinity for culture is a big part of what makes the anime-cute Tokyo native so likeable. She’s featured most often as a model, but music and DJing are what she feels for most. Her Instagram account @ashley_yuka is populated with retro-inflected flyers promoting her gigs, as well as visuals that hint at her auditory pleasures (Lauryn Hill, ’90s R&B songstress Karyn White, the bands who played at the original Woodstock).
We point out that there’s a distinctly indie feel to the imagery, and she whips out her iPhone to share the surrealist artwork of Paraiso – the 1978 debut album of her favourite band, the Japanese electronic act Yellow Magic Orchestra. Explaining that it was created by the ’60s psychedelia-influenced graphic designer Tadanori Yokoo, she coos: “It’s so cool, isn’t it?” The pink-haired youth is decidedly – and unexpectedly – an old soul.
It was the acclaimed Japanese record producer Towa Tei, once a member of the American ’80s dance group Deee-Lite, who started her on DJing two years ago – and with vinyl, no less. The event, she recalls with amusement, was called “Record”, explaining the medium that’s since become her preferred choice.
DJs today, she says, should not rely exclusively on mixing BPM – or beats per minute – to produce a track list, she says. “DJing should be about mood. You can’t just bank on having the same tempo (throughout the night) – that’s just too easy.” (On her playlist for a fun time: Michael Jackson’s Rock With You, followed by some Quincy Jones.) Mention EDM and her face scrunches up. “It’s okay that people love it, but I never listen to it,” she says. “I just don’t think that it comes from the soul.”
Her other artistic endeavour is photography (she carries a film camera everywhere) – one that she’s looking to develop further with her sister’s casual wear label OK, short for Office Kiko, launched last year. “I’d like to work on the creative direction behind it,” she says earnestly. Who says one needs to be in the spotlight to command?
Photography Stefan Khoo Styling Damian Huang Hair & Makeup Rie Shiraishi