Kentaro Yoshida is one of Australia’s most sought after surf creatives and mural artists. He moved to Sydney from Japan at the age of 18 to study English and fell in love with the beach lifestyle here. Deciding he wanted to “stick around for a bit”, Kenny extended his studies to include design and has never looked back. While being misunderstood might be seen as a disadvantage, Ken managed to use that as a major strength, developing his visual language through both necessity and artistic expression.
“Because English is my second language, I had so much struggle to communicate well, including the cultural barriers. But drawing something, or even making a quick sketch to tell my ideas, helped people understand me so much better.”
Ken’s blend of cultural influences, unique take on life, and general playful attitude has seen his work grow in popularity year after year. He has now been an OTIS Ambassador for almost a decade, creating t-shirt art and doing other projects like a mural at Melbourne’s URBNSURF wave pool. We love his stuff so much, we decided it was high time we created a sunglass collection together. So, Ken and the OTIS creative team sat down, mapped out some possibilities and developed four unique frames with ‘the Kenny touch’ woven in.
“I just wanted to make something I really want to wear,” explains Ken about the ultimate aim for the release. “I wanted something I'm 100% happy to take to the pub or like a friend’s party.”
“Kenny wears lots of nice subtle browns, whites and blacks, so we incorporated that as a good foundation for the frames to start,” adds OTIS Brand and Product Manager, Sally Kerr. “The standout is probably the blue frames because they represent the waves and ocean which inspire his lifestyle.”
After that, Kenny pulled together some nature-based designs to add a really unique aspect to the collection. The artwork itself is classic Kentaro: more than meets the eye with an optical depth you can stare at for hours. A sun, surrounded by clouds, can also be perceived as a flower with native plants blooming around it. Nature in its interconnected forms. The use of traditional cloud patterns inspired by Japanese drawing adds a personal touch, while the composition, reminiscent of a Mandala, also draws on an inspired Asian motif of peace and balance. It’s a representation of life that transcends language and culture. Playful and spiritual all at once. The central element of the sun//flower has been used across packaging, the glasses case and laser-etched into the frames, to pull everything together.
“It ties in the identity of the whole collab,” says Kenny. “The guys picked that up which was spot on. They know my styles. They know my touches. So I'm really happy with it.”
“Getting the detail in I think was the biggest thing,” adds Sally. “How we were going to incorporate his art into such a small space. If you look at all the frames, all the temples are completely different shapes. So it was really hard technically to weave that in. It was a little bit tricky, but we've got the artwork in there and those details look amazing.”
That sense of detail was inspired by Kentaro’s love for Japanese manga as a kid.
“Dragon Ball was my generation. So I used to just draw like Dragon Ball or even Pokemon when I was at primary school,” says Kentaro. “They put so much unnecessary detail in the background that most people wouldn’t even notice, so that’s been a big influence on my work now. Creating detail a lot of people won’t see, but when someone does and brings it up, it’s really cool.”
Another modern influence from Kentaro also comes in the blue transparent lenses seen in feature pieces of the collection.
“That lens isn’t as popular in Australia but it’s really popular in Japan, so I wanted to bring that across too,” says Ken. “Even when I was painting a mural yesterday, it almost feels like wearing nothing, so you can just keep on painting. It’s good for working outside or doing something physical.”
Stay tuned for some more background of the mural he created in Western Australia while visiting the OTIS team as well.
Watch more about the OTIS X Kentaro collaboration here.
Shop Kentaro's range here.