Kenji Wong was introduced to me as a designer, but listening to his journey reveals a set of skills and a fiery passion that isn’t so easily condensed into a generic title. I met up with him in his shop and studio in a former factory building, filled with seemingly disjointed items like vintage toys, upcycled furniture, and a seamlessly positioned motorcycle as a centerpiece. It’s tied together with his philosophy of wabisabi—an acceptance and an appreciation of imperfection and the natural life cycle of everything—and it doesn’t take me long to notice that even the sofa we are sitting on is upcycled with military fabric. His work breathes life in Hong Kong’s unique culture through his various creative projects and intricately designed apparel and today we’ll be picking at Kenji’s brain for a little peek at what makes him tick.
Describe what you do as if talking to a five-year-old.
I’m a creator of something unusual, special, and unique.
How did you get started with creation and design?
I was always going against something, trying to design my own world. (Kenji picks up a green lighter) For example, If I had this green lighter and didn’t like its colour, I’d design a cover for it.
Beyond that, I really wanted to introduce and share great designers with [our society]. I want to spread Hong Kong’s culture, and keep it alive through enhancing its inherent value and not through protection. I don’t believe we need to protect culture, merely give it the strength to survive.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Time, having enough time to spend it well. Maybe I’m getting old, but it’s hard to balance it all. Time is more and more challenging.
What distracts you these days?
Management, although – maybe I shouldn’t say this. I often waste time communicating with other people, sometimes wasted on just misunderstanding. I think everyone would benefit from being more honest.
Can you tell me about your favourite creation?
The sukajan jacket we recently launched. It’s sold out now. Actually, it was trending on Hypebeast a few months ago. It was hard for me to persuade the Japanese manufacturer to produce it, with such a limited run. It pays respect to Hong Kong history, culture, and design detail, all in one jacket.
What did you have for breakfast?
I have it very early, usually I have an americano or a drip coffee.
What’s next for you? Any big projects that keep the midnight oil burning?
Recently, I’ve been trying to build up content, although I’m not sure what of yet. Maybe a music album. I also want to explore if it’s possible to start an independent movie, cyber-punk style.
Written and shot by Anne Berry.