Kawaii art manager extraordinaire, Caro, has been helping female artists achieve their dreams all over the world with her company, Sweet Streets. The artists she represents have collaborated with others such as Nicki Minaj, Popples, Paul Frank, My Little Pony, and so many more. In an industry that is historically male dominated, it is an important task to give women the representation they deserve for their talent and that is just what Caro and Sweet Streets have set out to do.
“Sweet Streets is a company I started to support my favorite artists and manage their every day. My mission is to inspire others to do what they love and nurture it,” explains Caro, owner and founder of artist management firm, Sweet Streets. An artist herself, she never predicted being on the business side of art. “I never thought I would have my own company. When I was little, I was always drawing and coloring. My favorite movie was The Little Mermaid, and I wanted to be an animator when I grew up so that was the plan. Right out of school, I got a job in animation, but I was bored drawing for a living… It just wasn’t for me.” She instantly became more interested in the business side of artwork, applying for jobs with development and marketing executives. She then had the opportunity to travel to Japan where she visited many animation studios and galleries but noticed none of the artists were showing their work in the US. “I picked a few artists to do a show with. My friend Sebastian Masuda of 6%DOKIDOKI wanted to have a fashion show, so they joined the party. Sebastian even DJ’d. There was art, models, makeup, fashion; it was amazing! It was Harajuku all in one room! I called it Sweet Streets.”
“While I was in Tokyo, I was approached by my friend, Shojono Tomo, who needed help with her international career. She was really popular in Japan but had a hard time overseas because of distance and the language barrier.” The distance and language barrier is what prevents many foreign artists from showing outside of their countries. Caro’s first trip to Japan was for business which helped her to understand their customs. Though Caro didn’t study Japanese prior to her trip, she learned a lot while visiting. “The band Polysics loves animation, so we met up and they taught me ‘space language’ which is a lot of funny slang. It was my first experience speaking Japanese so you can just imagine! I thought ‘Toisu’ was how people said hi! Kayo later left the band and moved to the US and we were roommates, and she taught me real Japanese.” Caro explained that she knows enough Japanese now to converse with friends, but since most of her work is done in the US, she usually speaks English and hires translators as needed.
Just a few weeks after beginning work with Shojono Tomo, they got their first job working for Nicki Minaj. “Tomo was just in the right place at the right time, and I loved her work and showed it to some friends who style Nicki and that was it. After that, Shojono Tomo got a major collaboration with Bandai, and then My Little Pony…”
“Sweet Streets at its start debuted 6%DOKIDOKI x Popples, so we are definitely associated with cuteness and have continued to tap into that by working with our favorite cute brands.” Cuteness (“kawaii”) is a prominent aspect of Japanese culture that Sweet Streets artists are influenced by. I asked Caro how that translates to culture outside of Japan and she explained, “In the USA, I think when people hear “kawaii” they think of Hello Kitty, and we love Hello Kitty! In Japan, “kawaii” has a more complex meaning. It can be cute, pretty, soft, beautiful, dark, disturbing, or sexy, or all of them at once.” But Sweet Streets isn’t strictly kawaii. “We aren’t just about one thing,” she explained, “Each artist has a different story to tell. Bei Badgirl is the perfect example: She’s just drawing what she loves and that happens to be hot mermaid babes sexting their boyfriends! But her fans relate to her because she’s not afraid to be herself.” Bei’s motto is “Just be cute and don’t worry!”
This year, Caro wanted to work with a group of artists including Bei Badgirl, Chikuwaemil, Choco Moo, Eimi, Hikari Shimoda, and Shojono Tomo. Caro’s dissatisfaction with what she saw in the animation industry is what inspired her to begin working with female artists. “I saw how girls are represented 3-1 to boys. They are drawn so pretty and perfect with very little personality. What kind of message is this sending to girls? So many great female artists have risen up and found success because they followed their own lead, and learned how to differentiate themselves from the crowd. That’s exactly what I help my artists do. You have to know what’s going on out there in the world, recognize trends, think about what you want to say and how to put yourself at the front. My challenge every day is helping our artists to realize their potential.”
I asked Caro if she had any advice for women who are interested in pursuing a career in art and she said the best thing to do is to do what you love and follow that. She additionally encourages them to network beyond simply to get a job but also in order to meet new and interesting people, ask them for advice, and express gratitude to them for their help.
“I meet too many young artists who say they aren’t good enough or are afraid to put themselves out there. Your art can’t speak for itself…You have to create your own luck and go after what you want with pride and confidence.”
Caro is truly invested in women realizing their true potential and helping them achieve their dreams. “I think it’s important that there’s a place for girls to be creative and have a voice, and also get the help they need for their business whether it’s showing their artwork or making a product. If they have an idea, I want to see it happen. I want them to grow and succeed.”