Heaven by Marc Jacobs’ “Honest” New Zine Captures Kiko Mizuhara in Tokyo

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Kiko in Heaven
Kiko in HeavenPhotography by Alexandra Leese

As Heaven by Marc Jacobs releases a new zine, photographer Alexandra Leese talks about capturing the actress and model “exploring Tokyo and her favourite places, surrounded by her favourite people”

Heaven by Marc Jacobs isn’t your typical luxury fashion label. Launched in 2020 as the collaborative brainchild of Jacobs and Brooklyn-based designer Ava Nirui, Heaven’s nostalgic, grunge-inflected clothing and accessories struck a chord with a younger generation of fashion enthusiasts – distilling the youthful angst of a generation that values image and a sense of community. Now, for a new zine, the label steps into the world of Japanese model, actress and muse Kiko Mizuhara, enlisting photographer Alexandra Leese to capture the authentic, uncliched character of one of today’s most renowned and important models. “It felt effortless working with her,” says Leese. “I wanted to get to know the real Kiko.”

Alexandra Leese’s work oozes a rawness scarcely found in today’s age of hyper-refined, composed fashion imagery. While her practice centres around documentary-style photography, the sensitivity and the freewheeling emotion that emanates from the subjects she lenses are testament to a photographer with a singular curiosity and empathy. 

Leese, who is of dual British and Chinese heritage, spent the first 11 years of her life in Hong Kong. Her 2018 zine Hong Kong Boys brought her back to the region, and aimed to challenge strict stereotypes surrounding Asian men’s masculinity, presenting them for who they are, not who the West culturally and collectively imagine them to be. More recently during lockdown, Leese shot and presented a sensitive zine which featured women from around the world baring it all from the comfort of their homes – the concept of the series was simple, but in its delicate sense of empowerment, made sense in the Alexandra Leese universe. 

Now for Leese’s latest project with Heaven by Marc Jacobs, titled Kiko in Heaven, she journeys to Kiko Mizuhara’s home city of Tokyo to capture a “snippet of [Kiko Mizuhara’s] everyday life, and an insight into her favourite places.” Wearing Heaven by Marc Jacobs – or sometimes nothing at all – Leese’s visuals, rooted in an ongoing search for pure identity, offer the opportunity “to experience a little slice of Kiko’s heaven.” Here, Alexandra Leese talks us through photographing the zine: 

“Kiko in Heaven is a collaboration between myself, Kiko Mizuhara and Heaven by Marc Jacobs. Stepping into Kiko's world, the images tell an intimate story of Kiko just as she is. Exploring Tokyo and her favourite places, surrounded by her favourite things and people, we get to experience a little slice of Kiko’s heaven.

“I have been working with Heaven and Ava [Nirui] – who is the creative director at the brand – for a few years, and she’s always trusted me and given me a lot of creative freedom. She asked me if I'd be interested in making a zine for Heaven and that’s  when I dreamed up the idea for the project. I also always wanted to work with Kiko. [She’s] an icon. She's super talented and gorgeous. But actually what I loved the most about getting to know her, is how down to earth and cool she is. It felt effortless working with her. 

“We see her embody different characters through her work all the time, so I wanted to try and capture the real Kiko, something maybe people don’t see often when they see images of her, it was important that the images felt honest. 

“Before I arrived in Tokyo, we talked about how we wanted the pictures to be a snippet of her everyday life, and an insight into her favourite places, so we had a rough plan. I stayed with her, and shot the project over four days. One of the days, we took the train to the seaside in Izu and stayed with her friend Eiji. We slept on his tatami mat floor and got up and went to the beaches. She picked this place as it’s one of her favourite diving spots, which is also why we included some of her stunning diving pictures in the zine! My favourite one being of the coral giving birth, which only happens once a year on the full moon. 

“Another day we worked with her talented friends Rie, Sakie and Tomoya at her house experimenting with different beauty looks. The rest of the time we were at her home, cosying up with her cat Ciccio, or exploring the city. Mostly, it was a very ‘docu-style’ way of working, documenting as we went, and continuously bouncing ideas off each other. It was important it wasn’t too planned and that it felt honest.”

Kiko in Heaven launches on October 25. Purchase your copy here