When Kate Moross sinks into the sofa, she sinks into the sofa. She is beaming, perfectly comfortable and ready for questions. She looks at me and her face lights up as she exclaims, “Totoro!”
The spritely, turquoise-haired millennial is thrilled by my Totoro — the beloved mythical creature dreamed up by anime legend Hayao Miyazaki — ear studs.
Moross then shoots off on her obsession with Miyazaki, his films — Spirited Away (2001), the Oscar-winning Best Animated Feature Film, is her favourite — his characters, the Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, his ultimate influence on her work. Her energy was exuberant.
But it’s unsurprising that Moross is animated by animation. She constructs her reality in a large sense.
The free spirit is literally paid to doodle. Moross’ tantalising typography and psychedelic patterns are coveted by big names across industries — Nike, Topshop, Google and One Direction. Her latest coup is a Disney capsule collection for Japanese retail giant Uniqlo.
The hardworker earned her stripes, and built a solid reputation since she was in her teens. She coded a website to advertise her services designing flyers and MySpace web pages for bands. The multi-tasking student caught the eye of ad agency Fallon, leading to a nationwide billboard campaign for Cadbury. She finished school, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts, and first class honours.
Kate Moross’ whimsical designs have graced a myriad of products, from Cadbury chocolate to Retrosuperfuture sunglasses. Photo Courtesy of Kate Moross
The hyper-popular, multi-hyphenate divides her time between being an illustrator, art director, author and entrepreneur. She runs the London-based design agency Studio Moross, and record label Isomorph Records. She penned the inspiration guide for aspiring designers Make Your Own Luck, and is working on her next book.
She unpacks the rules of life with Keyyes.
On why Walt Disney is a hero
Walt wasn’t afraid of doing something he’d never done before — which is kind of how I hope to be to like. I definitely try and apply that kind of curiosity and enthusiasm wherever I can. Walt never made a theme park, but he knew how to create films, visual stories. He applied those rules to the parks. I’ve been to nearly all the parks. I really want to go to Pirates of the Caribbean in Shanghai’s Disneyland.
Sleep 8 hours a day
It’s life-changing. They say sleep keeps you young. It’s a thing we all do to live longer, but many of us don’t.
No working after 6 pm
I’m really strict about that with my staff. It makes you much more productive, it makes you more enthusiastic to go to work.
Visit a supermarket overseas
You get a glimpse into the everyday life of the locals, it’s reflected in the cosmetics or the cleaning products. In Japan, the sponges have smiley faces. I love looking at the packaging designs of candies and drinks.
Kate Moross designed the tour visuals for One Direction in 2014. Photo Courtesy of Kate Moross
There are some things more valuable than talent, or hard work
Being nice. People often forget to be personable and open, it’s not just about talent or work ethic. It’s important to give back to others. Young designers reach out to me via Instagram, I’ll take the time to give them advice about their portfolio.
I had pink hair from the age of 16. My parents let me be me. I’ve always been about self-expression. I’m never stopping myself from being who I am. I’ve literally had my hair in every colour you could possibly think. I pick colours on random, what I am in the mood for.
You won’t catch Kate Moross in all-black clothing, unless it’s a funeral. Photo by Wong Weiliang
All-black ensemble are only for funerals
Style is personality on display. I try to be as colourful and bright as possible because that is what I am kind of like. Unless it’s a funeral, I always wear bright colours.
Getting over a bad day
I like to lie on the sofa, play computer games, watch a movie, eat a delicious dinner. Sometimes I think it’s good to try and switch off as much as possible from the bad day and just relax. I’m a real homely person with my two Shiba Inus, one on each side. They’re the perfect armrests.
Kate Moross live painted a mural at Kiehl’s Since 1851 store in Tokyo in 2017. Photo Courtesy of Kate Moross
Dealing with creative rejection
I have such a thick skin. I’ve done this for 10 years. Occasionally I might be upset that an idea that I like hasn’t gone through. But I’ve learned to not take things personally. Rejection is just part of the process. You just have to trial and error until something works.
On living as a “non-binary”
For me, non-binary means that I don’t fully identify as being female or male. I exist in a world where gender is more of a spectrum. It’s about showing people that they can express themselves however they want. They don’t have to be a certain way if they don’t want to be.