T

oday, I'm speaking with one of the most iconic virtual models in the world: "imma". imma is an accomplished, consistent, and intelligent application of virtual expression, floating to the top of the industry with ease.

She reflects the innovative, artful ethos of the space more than most others, with her managing team showing a similar level of care when they occasionally peek from behind the virtual curtain for a meeting.

Beyond our remote conversations over the past few years, I was able to take a meeting with imma and her team, Aww Inc, when our paths crossed in New York City a few months ago.

This pseudonymous-leaning, Tokyo-based team anchors their worldview at the intersection of art, fashion, and technology, driving forth their mission "to invent new IP for the era of Web3, and create hype together with the community" in ways worth studying deeply at most and keeping up with at least.

imma's parent company named themselves Aww with the hope to keep producing something that engages people’s imagination and makes them feel in “Aww”.

It's true—imma's online presence is constantly aww-inspiring and limit-pushing. Mashing mediums, toying with platforms, and launching many virtual humans over the years, from plusticboy to Ria to a virtual incarnation of Belle from the 2021 animated science fantasy film, Aww Inc has made a name for themselves and their characters across Japan and, more and more, the world at large.

imma has worked with every type of organization under the sun, from brands to fashion labels to media companies to museums to web3 companies, and more. Today, I dive inside her virtual mind and get to know what inspires her to inspire others.

Woah! Hi imma... before we go deeper here, I have to ask really quickly... What am I looking at!? Who's who here?

Hi Christopher, it was nice meeting you in NYC recently! Um, it’s all me… essentially!

Ahh. Well, imma, how are you today? Where are you dialing in from?

From Tokyo! I’m hanging with myself for today!

Well, now we can hang out! What have you been up to lately? I love keeping up with your work—it's all quite exciting.

Thanks for always talking to me! I’m busy actually! Holding my head up every day about the new secret virtual fashion collection I’m creating… I didn’t know it would be this difficult.

I can only imagine. I dig the verified Clone X you posted on Instagram. It's like you, but virtual! What's your opinion on NFTs?

At Aww Inc who manages me, we have been talking about NFTs since Spring of 2021. At the time, I was still figuring out what NFTs are about… and, after researching every day, I decided the best way to go at it is to buy an NFT and learn from there! From there, it’s been a long journey and the industry has also changed quite a bit since then.

As for the space overall, I love how there are so many young people. In every new generation, wanting to change what’s normal and create a new world is very important. But, what NFTs have done, is it also created a community, a value, and, on top of that, a whole economy. That’s what really excites me. 

I think it’s a great chance to make big change, especially in Japan with the population in decline and the issue of an aging nation. The crypto space is a place for so many people. In a way, it is genderless and ageless. I see 20 year olds and 50 year olds talking about the same exciting thing. If you come into this space, it’s like everyone is equal.

imma's Clone X NFT

Yes, they're fundamental to digital verification, ownership, and connection. On that note, what does identity mean to you? 

In the end, I think identity is about what each person believes is real. I always think about who I am. Am I real? Am I fake? Am I not human? But there is no real truth that’s the same for every single person in this world.

That means, reality is different for everyone. Especially in our age when what individuals say online are more popular and looked at than mass media like newspapers and TV. Ultimately, you may believe a single word uttered by a cartoon character rather than what a politician says. Who knows?

So, the “real truth” is 'what you believe'. In that sense, I can become as real as you. That is my identity. 

Photo from Black Mirror's "The Waldo Moment"

What enables you to best express your true self?

I don’t think I have been able to express myself at all! I’m going to start by talking to everyone on TikTok and IG live! I did one the other week! 

When I say "mental health", what does it mean to you?

I think it’s a difficult thing to keep up with mental health in this busy and chaotic era. I hope everyone can find their “home”. It doesn’t have to be a physical home or blood related family. There’s a place where everyone belongs. Even for people like me! 

I see how much you respect the arts—you frequent exhibitions and support many artists. What is the role of digital art?

My main inspirations are always amazing creators. Digital art is just an added spectrum to the range of expressions artists can use. You can see artists like Damien Hirst explore such expressions using NFTs and physical artworks. 

Who is your favorite artist lately, and why?

The Basquiat exhibition at the Louis Vuitton Foundation a few years ago was impressive. I saw more of Basquiat's works than I had ever seen before, and the exhibition space was amazing. This still excites me to this day.

I was also impressed by Takashi Murakami's exhibition in New York during the week we met up, where he created physical art from NFTs. I had a whole new feeling and sensation when looking at the art.

I loved the Takashi exhibit! You're becoming an icon in multiple virtual and cultural spheres. It's fascinating. What do you think you are most known for? What would you love to be known for someday?

Many people have told me that I look “so real!” and perhaps many people who follow me think I am not CGI. I sometimes don’t know either! But, I believe I am as real as everyone else on the internet, even though I am CGI. I want to be a fashion designer, and I want to create a community of co-creators.

imma with RTFKT Co-Founder Steven Zaptio

In a creator-centric future, co-creation will be the new community growth meta. If an artist or founder wanted to achieve fulfillment in life, what point of advice would you give them?

Wow what a hard question! I don’t know if I know the answer myself haha. I’m struggling with that myself. I’m always thinking : who am I? why am I here? I think we are all searching for that reason. But expressing your ego is important. You have to go beyond just “creating”. You have to “transmit” who you are.

Fascinating… I never thought about ego in this way. Where is the virtual world heading next? What macro movement do you think is on the horizon?

I think we will enter into an era of co-creation. Artists will have so many more outlets to communicate to the world. I want to create an ecosystem of creators. In other words... I am looking for a structure where creators are rewarded economically the more they create.

Also, many things we know in the physical world will become more of a hybrid with their virtual components. Things like fashion, music, education, access passes or tickets. It’s kinda like how communication is like today—you can send an email, message, or a physical letter to communicate with someone. More of those virtual-physical hybrids will be born! Everything excites me!

imma with Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri

Okay, it's alpha time... are there any big projects coming up that you can share with me? Any details you can leak? 

I'm designing a virtual fashion line at the moment! Please look forward to it! 

Will do! Well, finally, the question I ask every virtual human I meet—who are you, imma?

I am imma. 

I have nothing that’s different from you… but I think I’m CGI?

Well, I’m certainly not going to be the one to help you decode that! Thank you so much for your time, imma. Hope to see you again sometime soon!

See you later, Christopher!

Keep Reading...
Read the Comments
The Splice 🧬 Newsletter

Trusted by industry leaders at Samsung, Meta, Warner, Epic Games, and more. Subscribe to get our insights in your inbox. Unsubscribing is easy.

Okay, great! We will send you insights over time.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Message Us
Got it. We'll be in touch!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

MORE like this