Esther Kim

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Esther Kim‘s work bridges the gap between our two favorite things: fashion and art. Growing up between the US and Tokyo, her illustration aesthetic is a unique combination of feminine, stylish, and playful. Clearly, we’re hooked. We sat down with the literary loving artist in an attempt to pick her crazy-creative brain. Oh, and keep an eye out for an upcoming Lessons From The Pros featuring Esther’s work!


How would you describe your work?

My work is personal and a lot about documenting style. I feel like style and clothing are such an indicator of what is going on in society and peoples’ lives. I like capturing those details and seeing the story that they tell. Otherwise anything girly, pop and fun!

What got you interested in doing what you do?

I’ve always loved fashion. I spent my teenage years in Tokyo during the nineties specifically I spent a lot of time in Shibuya and Harajuku. I soaked up so much fashion and design stimulation during that time and actually because all theTokyo kids were so fashionable and cool I never really thought I had any artistic ability.

Does your art influence your personal style?

What I’m drawing usually shows what I’m thinking about and hence, influences what I wear or vice versa. My clothing style changes a lot! It’s so fun to experiment and try different things. So right now I’m into tomboy, sleek clean stuff and lately sometimes I feel like I don’t match my work.  I feel like I should wear more pink or something. But usually I’m pretty matchy-matchy with my drawings. I always end up going back to pink or girly themes in my clothes.


When you’re not sketching, what can we find you doing?

I love traveling, reading and walking! I spent a whole month this past May two weeks in Seoul, two weeks in Tokyo. It was so fun not knowing what each day would bring, living out of suitcase, meeting new people, going to new places. Reading is a must. I love Leo Tolstoy, Milan Kundera, Zadie Smith, Tom Wolfe, David Sedaris, Kurt Vonnegut….good for the soul and mind. Walking: I grew up in Tokyo so I love walking through the city. It’s one of the things  I miss doing the most when I’m in L.A.

Who are the key influencers in your work? Do you have any idols?

I’ve always looked up to Fafi. I went to a lot of her early art shows in L.A. and I saw her once in Tokyo. I totally fan-girled on her and she drew in my sketchbook! Also I randomly took a figure drawing class right towards the end of college. I figured I might as well use my units on something interesting and the teacher, Justin Bua, really encouraged me to pursue art.  I was one of the only non-art students in his class and had no idea what I was doing but he liked my sketchbook drawings and that gave me the seed of confidence and sense that maybe I could do something with illustration.

How do you envision your career a decade from now?

 I would love to have a big white walled studio with lots of natural light, a whole side of the room set up as a photography studio. I envision friends, artists and creatives coming through to be photographed, collaborate or just hang out. I like working and I like friends. It would be awesome to combine the two!

Do you have any advice for aspiring illustrators?

I always quote Lily Franky (an super famous multi-hypenate illustrator-cartooniest-essayist-novelist). If you want to be an illustrator make a business card that says your name and underneath it illustrator! It’s up to you! 🙂 You can do it~!



(All illustrations by Esther Kim, Photo by Felisha Tolentino)