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SOPH. × nonnative
Takayuki Fujii x Hirofumi Kiyonaga talk about… “Sophnative”

SOPHNATIVE, a collaborative project by SOPH. and nonnative
The second ‘ROOM’ themed capsule collection launching Friday, June 24

Following the success of their first ‘ROOM’ themed collection, SOPH. and nonnative continue their long-running partnership with a second installment of home-oriented products.

The award-winning stepladder by LUCANO has been reproduced, this time with a new dark gray color in addition to the original oak hue. Ceramics brand HASAMI once again provides their expertise to create a set of stacking mugs and trays, with a smaller-sized mug added to the lineup. An exclusive graphic print tee completes the collection.

We caught up with the pair to discuss their friendship, design ideas, and more.

The SOPHNATIVE ‘ROOM’ collection is exclusively at COVERCHORD from Friday, June 24, 2022.



Be it an effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has altered mindsets around the world, or a shift within the industry itself, or even a natural resistance against such a shift - whatever the reason be, the long-running “SOPH.” and “nonnative” collaboration has transformed into a collection connected to day-to-day life. Rather than seeking a multiplying effect in order to create an arbitrary buzz, the collaboration has given birth to products that are created in the space that exists beyond a familiarity with each other’s realities. This interview took place on a random Saturday morning, while drinking coffee, in Kiyonaga’s new house in Hayama. We were joined by Fujii’s family, who live nearby, and a gentle and comforting air flowed through the house.

- It might seem a bit formal, but let me take this opportunity to ask you how you met each other?

Kiyonaga: I feel like it was around the time of the Japan-Korea World Cup, wasn’t it?

Fujii: At that time I was going to watch J-league games every week. And then after the game, we’d all go and have dinner.

Kiyonaga: So we didn’t meet each other through our brands at all.

- It sounds like such a natural thing for your personal relationship to develop into a dialogue between your two brands, but looking back now, I think such an approach might have also been quite unique to that era.

Fujii: Basically I don’t do anything unless a “senpai” (mentor) of the trade invites me. If I say to someone “let’s collaborate”, people find it hard to say no. So I think there was also a part of me that was waiting for Kiyo-san to come and say “isn’t it about time we collaborate?”, or something like that.

Kiyonaga: From my perspective, I’ve never approached someone that I don’t already have a connection with, nor international brands that don’t have a human face. I’ve always tried to collaborate based on a personal connection and the right timing.

Fujii: So you’ve never approached someone you don’t know?

Kiyonaga: Yeah. I’ve been consistent with that. If I’m going to collaborate with an artist, I wouldn’t make an offer to them without first being their fan and owning some of their work. Nice to meet you, let’s collaborate - that just doesn’t work for me. It also has to be at the right time, after we’ve communicated and gotten to know each other. So I’d say that I feel more like I collaborate with people, not with brands. And also, no matter how well I know someone, I’ve always tried to avoid doing something that leaves people thinking “what’s the point in this?”.

If it’s someone I know well, I leave everything up to them. Because we won’t create something decent if we are both constantly trying to sound each other out and pushing each other back and forth. Almost like in a comic duo, if you can have a natural dialogue with someone then your understanding of them grows quickly and things can move forward very easily. There’s a part of me that’s fundamentally quite lazy, so I’m the kind of person that wants things to be as easy as possible.

- So you start off as acquaintances, and then there’s some impetus to take it through to the next step. In general, when we hear “collaboration”, I think we associate it with keywords such as “explosive power”, or “chemical reaction” or a sort of “big buzz”, but I feel that Sophnative is an expression of a more gentle rapport.

Fujii: In the first place, when we made the “2-step” last time, we took the “SOPH.” and “lucano” stepladder and made it match the colour of the light wooden floor of my house; and this time the project started with Kiyo-san saying “I want more of those mugs we that made before”. That’s when I thought, this time, I want to make a stepladder to match the grey floor of the ground floor entrance to my house.

Kiyonaga: Yeah exactly. The triggers are very simple. Because I built a house here (Hayama), the spare mugs that I have been using in Tokyo are no longer enough, so we made some.

Kiyonaga: I don’t know about Fujii-kun, but I actually quite often make company mugs. Especially things like “F.C.R.B.”. It’s true that if you’re surrounded by your products even when you’re at home, your professional and personal life start to merge and that can feel a bit uncomfortable. It can also be a bit uncomfortable when you have people over and you’re serving them a coffee in a mug that your company made. But when I collaborate with someone else, it sort of neutralises that, and it doesn’t feel like it’s mine anymore.

Fujii: But you also get attached. We hardly ever use the “nonnative” logo on products, so these sorts of designs are only created through collaborations. So it actually makes everything feel new.

- Where’s the line between making your own household items and looking for pre-existing products that you like?

Kiyonaga: I already talked about this during our last discussion, but I’ve always been of the perspective that “you should buy mochi from a mochi store” (every man to his trade), and the same goes for clothes. Even if I was able to make “CONVERSE”-like shoes, or an original design functional carry-on bag, I think I’d still end up wearing real “CONVERSE” and I’d probably still use a “TUMI” bag. That’s my honest feeling. It’s the same for household items. I have lots of friends who are interior or product designers, or architects, so I think I naturally draw a line between myself and them. I think the stepladder is right on the line between something I would make and something I wouldn’t. I think it’s an item whose usage depends on your interpretation of it.

Fujii: It was a real eye opener for me when “SOPH.” gave it a wooden finish. TNP also uses Hasegawa Kyogyo stepladders, so I thought we could have made an offer too, but for me Kiyo-san had become the “mochi store”, so I thought I should first go to him. (Laughs)

Kiyonaga: Back then, I had some connections with Hasegawa Kogyo and when we talked about collaborating, there had already been a collaboration with “SUPREME”. So I considered putting the “F.C.R.B.” logo on it, thinking our customers would appreciate that. But if I had done that, it would have been like having a work tool in my house, and I thought that I’d end up not using it. So I thought to myself, what sort of stepladder do I really want, and that’s when I came up with the wooden finish.

Fujii: We also made a walnut finished “cado” air purifier, but with the shine of the wooden finish, and matching it with the interior design, we had to be very careful to get it just right, otherwise it would have looked fake. That sort of balance is really difficult.

Kiyonaga: That idea, if I remember correctly, came from this, right? (Picks up a Nepia tissue box from the table). As you know, as a company we like our novelty goods (laughs), and when the idea arose to make a tissue box with Nepia, naturally we asked “what sort of design shall we use for the box?”. So, at first we thought to put some graphics on it, but if we did that, then people are just going to put a wooden cover on it because they want to hide the tissue box. If they do that, then it defeats the whole purpose, we thought, and that’s how we came up with the wood design series.

SOPH. has been going for 24 years now, so that means that someone who was 20 when we started out is 44 now. I want to create items that are appropriate for the era we’re in. Using what I’ve seen, what I’ve felt, and rearranging these sensations, but without going too far.

Fujii: There’s about a ten-year age difference between me and Kiyo-san, but I feel the same way. I want customers to think “I always wanted something like that”.

- When did the two of you start being aware of the age, lifestyle, and profile of your customers when designing the brand? I’m guessing that in the beginning you were just making items that you yourselves wanted.

Fujii: As the brand has aged, and our customers have matured, it means there are more things besides fashion that have become important. When you have a family, or children, you can’t spend money on clothes like you might have done when you were younger, and you’re not going to cut back on food money to buy clothes anymore.

Kiyonaga: When I imagine these lifestyle changes, I want to create items that match the times. Even if a customer has never bought anything from “SOPHNET.” I hope that they will want the stepladder. Recently, more and more people that I meet tell me “I used to buy SOPH.!”, and each time someone tells me that I think to myself “why ‘used to’?”. (Laughs) When I built this house, the representative from Daiwa House also said “I used to be a customer”. Once our customers start having to wear a suit for work everyday, they can’t buy lots of casual clothes anymore. But they still continue to be attached to the brand. So I wanted to make more options for those people.

-Now, you mentioned the next generation. Kiyonaga-san and Fujii-san, in terms of age, you are about ten years apart, but you’ve continued to work on the same project together, and visit each other’s houses as you are today. Is there something that you have in common that makes your relationship so comfortable?

Kiyonaga: Something we have in common? I wonder. We copy each other sometimes, and learn from each other, but our intuitions are never too far apart. Although our styles might appear different, maybe we like the same sort of clothes too?

Fujii: If you think of there being a colourful element, the amount of colour that we want to show is similar, so to speak….

Kiyonaga: It’s not that I don’t like the luxurious, but I just want to express it simply, to present it in a modest way.

Fujii: If the lights in this house were chandeliers, or the cushions were sparkly, then maybe we wouldn’t have become close. (Laughs)

Kiyonaga: I think we might both have quite a good grasp of our own capabilities. Also, lots of our stores serve the same customers. And, Takayuki is also the kind of guy who looks at the world from a slightly distanced point of view, right?

Fujii: Yeah, you’re right. And I don’t like to be in the middle of everything as well. Basically, I don’t want to stand out.

Kiyonaga: We don’t feel the need to keep pushing forwards, so we’re not the “forward” position players of our industry. More like a midfielder? But not quite in the middle. You could say it’s a bit of a cop out.

Fujii: There’s a part of me that has been unconsciously copying that positioning. My preferences for furniture and art are the same. I didn’t know anything about them in the beginning. Like, oh this light matches this, or this pottery is good.

- Kiyonaga-san, is there someone who inspired you in terms of the positioning or the “intuition” that you just mentioned?

Kiyonaga: As a part of my generation I was influenced by many people who are my senior or mentor of sorts, but I couldn’t narrow it down to a specific person. I could say I feel like I’m editing an aggregation of individual parts. And in that respect, I don’t think I’m far off. (Laughs)

Fujii: I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone else quite like Kiyo-san.

Takayuki Fujii
Born in Nara in 1976. After dropping out of the Department of Scenography and Design at Musashino Art University, Fujii gained experience as a floor staff at various select shops before taking on the role of nonnative designer in 2001. Ever since then, Fujii has been committed to introducing and developing the distinct and unique culture that is nonnative.

Hirofumi Kiyonaga
Born in Oita Prefecture in 1967. Founded SOPH. (renamed SOPHNET. In 2002) in 1998, followed by FC REAL BRISTOL the following year. In 2008, a new line UNIFORM EXPERIMENT was launched. Established online store KIYONAGA & CO in 2020.

Interview & Text_Masayuki Ozawa
Translation_Yuko Caroline Omura


The first ‘ROOM’ themed capsule collection was released in Spring 2021 and was made up of a unique range of home and coffee-related items. For their second collaboration along this theme, SOPH. and nonnative decided to focus on the core elements.

Stepladders often end up stowed away in closets, but the LUCANO stepladder was designed specifically to be kept out and used, as a ladder or convenient impromptu seat. The slim, sleek design has been finished in a dark gray hue, in addition to the original oak released last year.

Stackable mugs and trays are produced by HASAMI, a contemporary porcelain company based in an area of Japan that has been producing ceramics for hundreds of years, since the Edo period.

The t-shirts are original nonnative body tees, made from premium cotton and printed with an exclusive graphic. Like the other items from this collection, they were designed to bring function and comfort to life at home.


The LUCANO stepladder was developed as a home-use stepladder that "does not need to be hidden". Available in oak and dark gray.



These practical, stackable mugs evoke a nostalgic feel and are available in two convenient sizes, produced by Nagasaki-based ceramic brand, HASAMI.


Price_ ¥2,500


Endlessly useful multipurpose trays, also available in two sizes and made by HASAMI.




nonnative body tees with exclusive collaborative graphics.

Price_ ¥8,800