interview / Morgan Lynzi
photos / Alex Kenealy
Esther Kim is the progressive, kawaii fashion-fueled artist you have always dreamed of. Don’t believe me? Just check out her Instagram account and its 16K+ adorers. Her pink infused aesthetic is hard to ignore (but why would you try?) and her photo app collaborations that have rolled out throughout the year via LINE app have never failed to take over the photos (quite literally) of the blogger friends and kawaii connoisseurs who fill my social feed. There’s something both soft yet rebellious about her work that has attracted a following of everyone from teen girl fashionistas to grown men alike.
As a Korean-American spending her time between Japan and Los Angeles, Esther’s style and point of view is unique to a person who has spent over a decade absorbing a diverse Masala of culture and shaping it into a vision uniquely her own. Kim’s illustrations tap into the youthfulness celebrated in Asia and longed for with nostalgia by young women stateside.
Enchanted, I caught up with Kim in her Downtown LA studio to chat about her work, cultural differences, and the perfect playlist.
How did you get started with art?
I started drawing in my last year at college. I felt something lacking and wanted to develop a new side of my self.
How did the name ‘Esther Loves You’ come about?
It just popped out! I didn’t really think about it.
‘Esther Loves You’ is a pretty bold statement. Do you think of yourself as romantic?
How would you describe yourself, and your art? Are there any similarities or drastic difference?
I’m a reluctant Los Angeleno by way of Tokyo that loves kimchi, natto and iced Americanos. My art is an expression of what I see and like. My work is always really girly. I’m not sure if I myself come off as girly as my work.
What is your cultural background? How does it play a part in your art?
I’m Korean-American but spent my teenage years in Tokyo. Going between Tokyo and LA and being Korean-American means a lot of different cultural, moral, social differences merged into one person. In American films I could never identify with the kids that yelled at their parents and went on vacations to places with palm trees. When I watch Asian films I see more stoic characters and family scenarios that I can relate to. I could go on but I just kind of had to make one version of myself that can go between all the cultures.
What is your dream for yourself?
[I want to] get rid of all the junk I’ve accumulated over the years eventually get my own studio (although I do love sharing my current space with my friends) and provide for my family.
If you could create a five-track mixtape as the soundtrack to your art and what you stand for, what songs would make the cut?
Soko – I Come in Peace
Zion T – Yang Hwa Bridge
Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
Sky Ferreira – Everything is Embarrassing
Heart – Alone
How long have you lived in Los Angeles? What energy does the city bring to your work?
I’ve been back since 2007 and I was born here. I spent all my pivotal years outside L.A. so I feel kind of detached and I think it’s easy to stay disconnected. It’s a cool city though—pink sunset skies, green juice, clean food, hiking and beaches…
What’s the one thing you want to do before New Year’s Day?
Go to Korea!
What collaboration that you’ve done thus far is your favorite?
It’s been a dream-come-true to work with LINE [camera]. I’ve made three sets of stickers for Line Camera (now Ailis) and I’m working on my first solo show at Calm and Punk Gallery in Tokyo.
The three most important things to remember every day are:
1. Everything you have can be taken away at any time.
2. Health is wealth.
3. We all make mistakes.
How do you usually handle creative blocks?
I think even with art you have to warm up. Just like exercising. Do some sketches for fun before you start.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been told, or can give to other artists?
There are all kinds of artists. There is a huge variety in need so find what is unique about your-self and develop that into an asset in your work and story.
Anything else you’d like to say?