Committed to His Craft: Room No.6 Designer Ken Naoi

The relationship with Room No.6 began when WILDSIDE reached out to designer Ken Naoi to collaborate. This will now be the third time working together.
In this issue, we have interviewed Ken Naoi about the things he pays special attention to when creating his fabrics and details, the charm he injects into each item, and the story behind the completion of this latest WILDSIDE × Room No.6 collaboration.

ー Could you talk briefly about the history of your brand, from its inception to the present day?

Naoi: I launched the brand in 2013. It all started from the simple fact that I enjoyed making bags and accessories from vintage military materials.
In the beginning, I was just making things in my own atelier at home and selling them in pop-up store at events, department stores, cafes, and other such locations. It was a lot of fun moving around from one place to another to sell my creations, but I had this growing sense of wanting to develop not only the items I was making but also the space in which I was making them. And so, in 2018, I opened a studio in Koto City, Tokyo.
It's in a very quaint building built in 1926. If you come and see it, I think you will find that the space perfectly encapsulates the essence and atmosphere of Room No.6.

ー When it comes to making Room No.6 products, what do you attach particular importance to?

Naoi: I make bags and accessories, mainly using US military surplus materials from the 1940s to the 1980s. Vintage materials have a lot of value in and of themselves, so if I'm going to take a pair of scissors to something, then I try to do so without ruining its value. I'm careful about selecting the material, and I do my best to create something to enhance its value further. I often wear second-hand and vintage clothing myself, so I try to make things that fit in naturally with such outfits.

ー What was the inspiration behind this latest collaborative piece with WILDSIDE, and what led to the lineup?

Naoi: I made patchwork newspaper bags in two different sizes and a boonie hat.
Starting with the newspaper bags, I made them using my standard template. The Yohji Yamamoto archival fabrics we received for this collaboration had an “oriental” air about them, so I combined them with the idea of creating a piece that would evoke the distant image of recycled cloths from Asian hill tribes.

For the boonie hat, I used US military tent material as a base and reproduced the tiger stripe camouflage pattern by using Yohji Yamamoto’s army gabardine fabric and military fabrics in various colors. For quite some time now, I had been toying with the idea of someday using the black fabric of the US Army black357 BDU jacket, but then I thought it would be even more interesting to use army gabardine fabric.
I think it turned out nicely, especially with regard to the texture of the fabric and all of its contours. The shape combines the details of boonie hats from the 60s and 80s. I am pretty happy with the final result of both the bags and the hat.

ー What does the future have in store for the Room No.6 brand?

Naoi: I want to continue making hardcore, niche products. I make things out of vintage materials, so, one day, I might simply run out of materials and no longer be able to make things in the same way. But until that day comes, I want to carry on using my old sewing machine to make good-looking bags.
I only make things within a narrow band of expressions, and my brand is supported by customers who are sensitive to these expressions, so I would like to continue making products that resonate with such people.

RoomNo.6 Designer
Based on the concept of "Local Made Military Items," designer Ken Naoi dismantles and reconstructs US military garments from the 1940s-80s to create bags and accessories.
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