Reflekt Muse: Cherise Shikai

Cherise Shikai is a Japanese East LA native &  menswear designer talks about her love for men’s clothes and how she refuses to change her style to get a guy.

Tell me your life story.

I grew up in Boyle Heights, and lived in the old craftsman house that my fathers family had originally moved into after immigrating to the US, from Japan. Both my parents are kendo instructors, so my older sister and I use to spend much of are childhood at the dojo they taught at in East LA. I am grateful for the multicultural lifestyle we lived, growing up in a majority Latino community, while also spending time in different asian cultural communities in LA, such as Little Tokyo, K-town and San Gabriel. In my junior year in high school, I transferred to the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, in order to explore my passion for the visual arts. There, I took two fashion classes and eventually decided to pursue the subject further at Otis. After taking on my first menswear project, I never turned back. All my interests seemed to come together in fashion. I still was able to use my drawing skills, and create things with my hands and also satisfy my interest in masculine styling.

Early style influences?

Other boys in my class. I was always interested by the toughness and "coolness" that boys are encouraged to aspire to from a young age. So ever since I can remember, I would always try alongside the other boys to copy that look.

Where did you get your style?

It occurred to me recently that although my style is a mess of many cultural influences and menswear trends, it basically stems from both of my parents. My style seems to always come down to a weird clash of my father's uniquely flashy taste in menswear and my mothers more refined, modern taste in womenswear. I find its a handy approach to menswear though, since alot of successful menswear looks seem to be about balance.

How did your style develop?

My style went from literal copies of casual looks I saw other boys wear, to a more appropriate mix of classic menswear pieces. I use to always dress like a boy, but as I got older I was able to add more depth to my style. I think I developed an appreciation for cleaner and classic cuts. I also realized the importance of adding feminine touches to my outfits. I guess you could say my style matured.

Personal styling trick?

Taking the way men wear and style their clothes and mimicking it with womenswear.

How do you think people react to your style?

I am not really sure. I feel like they take it for what it is? I have been mistaken for a boy too many times to count. The lowest point, being called "sir." It use to annoy me when i was younger, but I guess what can I expect? It just means I am wearing my menswear a bit too convincingly. haha

What are your hobbies?

Drawing and sketching have always been my first loves. Recently I've been especially into reading philosophy books and revisiting classic novels. I feel like it keeps my mind sharp, and also helps me to explore my own emotional states and develop a better understanding of people and life.

Cherise's design sketches

Do you dress for yourself or others?

Definitely for myself. I specifically remember the point in my life when I basically asked myself, "do I want to be liked by boys?" I had to decide whether it would be worth compromising my boyish style for more mainstream approval and acceptance. The truth is, I was just too proud to sacrifice my comfort and self image for a boy, especially since I knew that no boy I knew could ever surpass my style. haha

I specifically remember the point in my life when I basically asked myself, “do I want to be liked by boys?” I had to decide whether it would be worth compromising my boyish style for more mainstream approval and acceptance. The truth is, I was just too proud to sacrifice my comfort and self image for a boy, especially since I knew that no boy I knew could ever surpass my style.

What fascinates you?

Menswear! I always admire the functional aspects of menswear. There is something about the way great menswear can be so minimal but perfectly fit a man and allow him to emanate a balanced aura of confidence, and coolness! I think for me, the attempts to define "masculine appeal," is what is so challenging and exciting about designing menswear.

Last Words

Find the activities in life that allow you to apply all the things you love to do and take advantage of your strengths. 

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Follow Cherise's adventures and design work on her instagram:  @yshikai