UNFOLD x PUTPET
If you’re like us and have a penchant for secondhand items, you have to know about Kenzi Ohtani, also known as putpet.
Ohtani designs dolls of all shapes and forms, ranging from a cat to a cactus, or a posable smiley-faced human, and even a little daruma doll. Though Ohtani is based in Tokyo, Japan, his quirky and cute designs have garnered him a large fan base globally. His eye for patchwork and handcrafted feel have led him to commission early works for Kapital, and collaborate with Jonathan Lukacek (The Bandanna Alamanac). His works are now also carried in many notable boutiques such as Mannahatta NYC, Bodega, and Second Sunrise in Stockholm. You can also catch his works in many pop-up events in Tokyo, even in the renowned department store, Tokyu Hands.
We were first introduced to Ohtani’s work 2 years ago, after commissioning bespoke personal works for friends and family. Amazed by Ohtani’s eye for details and DIY flair, we knew his work was one we had to keep an eye on. Ohtani’s interest in reworking secondhand items, and artisanal approach to his creations, evoke the same feeling we aim to capture in the other products we carry. The small-scale crafting techniques and strong personal viewpoints found in Ohtani’s works, can also be seen in the humble beginnings of the many brands we look for. This led us to reach out to him in hopes of supporting his business and sharing his work with like-minded individuals.
For our collaborative efforts we’ve come together to release a small capsule collection of 3 of putpet’s iconic doll designs with our shared vision for vintage materials, alongside a short Q&A with the man himself. We hope this helps our readers discover a new avenue for appreciating and incorporating secondhand goods into their lives.
You once worked as a secondhand clothing buyer and now use upcycled materials for your creations, what went into the decision of making this transition?
While I worked as a buyer, I was also remaking clothes that weren’t for sale. I felt the need to continue by myself and experiment by making different things. I continued my practice and arrived at what is now ‘Putpet’.
The upcycled materials are brought back to life through your creations, a lot of which are animals. Where does the interest in animals come from? Did it also influence the name as if you want your dolls to serve the same purpose as a pet/companion?
When I was a kid, I loved animals and would always love to look at pictures of them in books. Cats and dogs hold a certain sense of familiarity with humans so they were a necessary reference in my work. The memories I made from my childhood are now embodied in the present with my current creations.
Any other out of the ordinary inspirations that go into your work?
It's a habit of mine to always think about ideas, so there's nothing special about it.
Many would associate dolls with childrens toys and in some instances online, there is a disclaimer that these are not recommended for young children. Why do you think your work resonates with adults?
“My work was not made to target children but instead for those who shared similar interests with old fabrics and clothing. However, I hope my work resonates with various people and different age groups.”
What is your thought process on your creations? On average how much time goes into each creation?
There are multiple factors at hand. I have three types of work: mouth zip, put type, and wire doll. Each of them have a different process and construction. Depending on which, I am able to make multiple in a day or one over the course of several.
Your work is seen across Kapital stores that some may think is a perfect marriage aesthetically, how did that relationship develop and how has it impacted both sides?
I’m thankful to Kapital for accepting my work when nobody else knew me. They have excellent stores that are some of the most unique in the world. So it was a wonderful experience to coexist in the same space for awhile.
Are there any other creative mediums that you have/are currently practiced/practicing? What do you see moving forward for the future of putpet?
For the future of Putpet, I would like to see my work not only sold in stores but used in movies, TV Dramas, and magazines. All I can do now is continue to create.
You can continue to keep up to date with putpet's latest creation on his instagram @__putpet__
Video & Music: Justin Kang @suggykang