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Inspire Forward: Nikkei Heroes Under 30

Maia Harima – Distinctive Fashion Designer

Maia Harima

Maia Harima is third-generation (Sansei), with family origins in Akita, Ibaraki, and Shiga prefectures. She grew up in the Japanese community in La Plata, a city in Buenos Aires Province. After studying fashion design at the prestigious University of Buenos Aires, these days you’ll find her in the land of her ancestors, where her talent and art are on full display.

What does “being Nikkei” mean to you?

I think “Nikkei” is a very broad term, from my perspective it means having roots in Japan. As a Sansei Nikkei, the granddaughter of immigrants, I identify as Nikkei because my face looks Japanese but my education and culture is a fusion of two countries: Japan and Argentina.

What is your relationship with the Nikkei community in Argentina?

In my youth I participated in Nikkei sporting events (like the Pan American sports games) and also in cultural events representing the Japanese Association of La Plata, which I’ve been part of since I was a little girl. I’ve also been the beneficiary of a Nippon Foundation scholarship known as the Nikkei Scholarship, which has enabled me to study in a two-year, post-graduate program in Tokyo.

Maia Harima's participation in the Japanese community (Japanese Association of La Plata)

When did you become interested in fashion design?

I’ve been interested in arts and crafts since I was a girl. When it was time to choose something to study, I knew it would be something related to design. I was inspired by the idea that I could do something significant with fashion.

What style of design do you like?

Designs from the Nikkei Collection by Maia Harima

Right now I’m focusing my design method on learning about production and material processes that are environmentally friendly. Aesthetically, I tend toward the minimalist, with simple forms and neutral colors with colorful details.

How has your Japanese ancestry influenced your work?

To graduate you have to prepare a thesis, creating a simulation of your own brand, collection, and packaging. I called mine “Nikkei” because I really wanted to raise the awareness about that term.

After traveling in Japan I brought home some fabric samples and combined them with natural yarns from Argentina. Using yarn to fuse the two cultures was interesting, making an obi with Argentine wool.

That’s how I got to participate in and create awareness about my work and my roots at Buenos Aires Fashion Week (BAF Week), one of the most important fashion events in Argentina. The day that I won, I really appreciated all the sacrifice and hard work…it was an incredible experience.

Maia Harima at the Buenos Aires Fasshion Week event.

Now that you’re in Japan, what are you learning?

I’m specializing in fashion technology, so I’ve learned about the production part of the system. My research has been focused on seeking out sustainable processes as well as materials.

Maia Harima in Japan

Maia is undoubtedly a young Argentine Nikkei without limits, representing an authentic nexus between Argentine and Japanese art and culture. Her designs and her words communicate this when she describes her inspirations:

“My favorite Japanese designers are Yoshi Yamamoto and Shiro Sakai. And in Argentina, Lucía Chain, the designer who motivated me to study fashion and branding. They create things that go beyond what can be worn in a particular place.”


© 2023 Ricardo Hokama

Argentina Buenos Aires fashion designers Japan La Plata Sansei The Nippon Foundation scholarships

About this series

This monthly series features interviews with young Nikkei who are 30 years old and younger from around the world who are helping to shape and build the future of Nikkei communities or doing innovative and creative work sharing and exploring Nikkei history, culture, and identity.  

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