Takeo Kobayashi

Fashion and design guru Takeo Kobayashi has designed gowns and outfits for some of Hollywood’s brightest stars, including Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jennifer Lopez, Kelly Hu and Jason Momoa, who was featured in Game of Thrones and Conan.

During his 40-year career, Kobayashi – pictured here with ChiBi – has become a profound presence in his native Japan and in the U.S. His designs have been seen by millions of viewers as he has represented actresses and actors who have been nominated for Emmy, Tony and Academy awards.

Kobayashi, along with Eric Chandler, his partner and co-founder of 2Couture, continues to make the combined Miss Hawaii USA and Miss Teen Hawaii USA an admired pageant.

Since recovering from a stroke and heart bypass surgery in the summer of 2011, Kobayashi has a new outlook on life and has gained an appreciation for giving back.

“My life has turned 180 degrees,” says Kobayashi, who was featured on MidWeek‘s cover Dec. 15, 2006. “I decided to change and start to support others now. I decided I wanted to help young people and do more charity work. I want to help someone else; want to help young people’s dreams.”

Since attending Nippon Design School and the prestigious Art School of Los Angeles, Kobayashi has understood the fashion and design process from heel to crown. He wasn’t guided by a red carpet to success, though. Kobayashi faced hardships early on in his career, rising above certain competitive ignorances that were projected toward him.

“You have to have thick skin. People are always trying to push around young talent. Things have changed a little, but 40 years ago in California they would call me names and nasty comments. Now I want to give my experience to young people,” says Kobayashi, who is now working with Emma Wo.

“She is only 22,” says Kobayashi, known to friends as Ta. “I want to give her the chance to learn about coordinating events. That includes everything from finances to music.

“It’s her time now … If all the people I know need help, I’ll help. That’s my commitment for the rest of my life. If I am helping them, they are helping me, too.”

With Kobayashi’s new appreciation of life comes a desire to expand another creative outlet that has always meant a lot to him.

“I still have design, but I like to paint more now,” he says. “There I can control myself instead of trying to please someone else.”