After speaking to Lydia English, co-founder of Genki Gear, at a previous MCM Expo we arranged the below interview which goes in-depth into everything Genki!  All images featured on this page can be enlarged, simply just click on your desired image.  

Why did you choose to call the company 'Genki Gear'?  Does the name have any significance?

A. Genki Means spirited, lively, energetic in Japanese.  We were looking for names which signified our enthusiasm for the subject and Gear was added because it says what we do and makes for nice illiteration.

Why did you decide to focus the company purely on Japanese designs?

A. Our love of Japanese culture has really grown from two areas.  We are really lucky that we are both complete otaku geeks and that our loves of collecting American comics and sci-fi led to a combined discovery of manga comics like Gunsmith Cats and Blade of the Immortal and to an early love of anime like Studio Ghilbli, Ghost in the shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion.  At the same time Phil (co-founder of Genki Gear) had an early introduction to Japan, as he had a close Japanese friend who introduced him to sushi, Japanese culture and Japanese art whilst he was still in his early teens.

Q. Unlike other companies such as Terratag and Mamoo you have created several designs that do not rely solely on illustrations but on logos and text (eg. Human Parking & Manga Tonic).  Where did you get the influence for these designs how did you manage to make them so original?

A. We believe that anything can be twisted slightly to give it that Japanese touch, everything around us is inspiring from old toys, street signs to Modern designers and engineering drawings. Its the essence of Japanese style that we like and this can be applied to all elements of design. The originality comes from applying that twist plus seeing that world through Phil's eyes as an artist.

Q. Unlike other companies which mainly draw inspiration from anime & manga, you have drawn inspiration from Japanese cinema, Engrish and even the Japanese landscape (Mount Fuji).  This keeps you unique within the community. Would you agree with this assessment and, if so, would you like to add anything do it?

A. We wanted to do designs which appealed to our overall love of Japan, its history, culture and its landscape and we try and capture all of these different elements so you have giant robots, Samurais and Mount Fuji all in one place.  Anime and manga are part of what we love about Japan, but we love the whole culture and we talk to a lot of anime and manga fans who seem to feel the same!

Q. What printing process do you use for your t-shirts?

A. We use silk screen printing with Plastisol inks and the t-shirts are then heatsealed for a smooth durable finish.  We spent a lot of time sourcing the highest quality printers and t-shirts as this is very important to us.

Q. Other then your website and expos/conventions is there anywhere else people can buy Genki Gear products?

A. We are currently trialling a range with Forbidden Planet in their London and Bristol stores.

Q.  Have you considered expanding your range to other items of clothing?

A. We are considering other products for instance hoodies and long sleeved t-shirts but these are long term plans at the moment. We will be bringing out a range of keyrings and silk screen posters in early 2007 (note: since this interview Genki Gear have released a keyring based on the 'Ninja Bunny' design (pictured below).  No similar items have been released as of yet). 

Q. Are you likely to introduce a children's range? Given the amount of children attending the Expo this could be an option.

A. We do get asked a lot about children's clothing and it is in our plans to look into further by mid 2007.  At the moment our focus is on some great designs for our spring 2007 range.

Q. The products on your site are available in dollars. Do your sell well in the States and have you attended any conventions there?

A. We haven't attended any conventions in the US yet but we do well on ebay and through our e-shop. The only limiter at the moment is the exchange rate has slowed this down something we have never really had to think about before.

Q. With Mamoo Designs recently appearing on the scene, do you worry that the market could ever become overcrowded?

We feel that all of the different t-shirt companies have very distinct individual styles and that we all bring our own unique flavour to the market place.  Ultimately people will choose the styles and designs that appeal to them and we will keep listening to what people feedback to us on our designs and what they would like to see.

Q. What are favourite Japanese films and aspects of Japanese culture?

We have a huge range of favourite films and series. We love anything by Studio Ghilbli, Japanese Horror and Tampopo.  Series wise I love Fruits Basket, Kiddy Grade, Vamprire Princess and Angelic layer to name but a few. We also love survival horror games, sumo wrestling, sushi, otaku culture and Japansese street fashion.

In addition we have a house full of Japansese Figures and gashapon and manga like Gunsmith Cats, Blade Of The Immortal and Dirty pair.