When it comes to his art, Kenji Chai is not afraid of going all out to catch attention. His colourful graffiti are a well-known sight in Kuala Lumpur. In 2018, he even painted a 25-storey mural – which was later certified by The Malaysia Book Of Records as the tallest in the country.
The 39-year-old Sabahan recently bagged a collaboration with an independent Singaporean watchmaker. The limited-edition Venture watch from Boldr, sports Chai's famous grafitti character: Chaigo the dog.
Chai's artwork of Chaigo is displayed proudly on the dial. He also has a hand in designing the interchangeable strap. This is in addition to a collector’s Chaigo action figure, plus a set of very special (and colourful, naturally) stickers.
The inspiration comes from the idea of facing life’s challenges head-on. This is something that deeply resonates with Chai himself, who cites an incident that happened to him at the beginning of his career.
“I was driving on the highway sometime in 2013 when I saw a carcass of a stray dog. Growing up in a broken family and having to be independent from a young age, I can deeply relate to the struggles of the strays, and it led me to realise that I can take control of my own life and change my future.”
It inspired Chai to create his alter ego, Chaigo. The distinctive neon blue dog can now not only be spotted in Kuala Lumpur, but also in cities such as Brisbane, Madrid, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
Chaigo is said to represent Chai's spirit of never giving up and fun outlook on life. The name is a wordplay of his surname, combined with the Mandarin word for dog, "go". As it is, Chai was born in the year of the dog.
As for the collector's action figure that comes with the watch, he says it has always been a dream to create his own toy as he could not afford toys when young.
This marks Chai first-ever collaboration with a watch company – and he sees great symbolism in the experience and end products.
"Bringing a graffiti piece to life and having it loved by fans was quite a surreal experience," he comments.
“To me, the small imperfections of the handcrafted toy makes each one unique, like how every person is different. These differences should be celebrated, and this goes hand-in-hand with my belief that everyone has greatness within them.”