California native James Kamo is not your average designer. After leaving his day job as an apparel designer at a small Oregon company that makes shoes for people like Michael Jordan, Kamo founded Rucksack Village, a company that creates custom packs for people. Kamo has made bags since 2012, but he did not think to make and sell packs until a friend asked if she could purchase one as an anniversary gift for her husband after seeing one he posted on Instagram. From there, news began to spread through word of mouth and thus Rucksack Village was born.
Influenced by musicians, comedians, and filmmakers, Kamo constantly looks for ways to develop his craft. “I find it awesome that people can take an idea and express it through whatever is their medium in such unique ways,” he says. “A thing I’ve been doing lately is when I watch a comedian, I try to break down the way they deliver bits.” It’s this type of analytical mind that helps Kamo evaluate his own work and cultivate his style.
When creating bags, Kamo takes a unique approach. “The process starts with the customer emailing me and asking how they can buy one. I ask them five questions: What will the pack be used for? What will you put inside the pack? Are you right-handed or left-handed? What colors or patterns do you like? If you were an animal, what animal would you be, and why? The answers to those questions help me determine what kind of pack to make, what features to include, and what personality to inject.” This process results in packs that are complete custom works of art—both functional and beautiful.
Kamo admits that there are some challenges when creating packs using this process:
“When I first started making packs, I was majorly impulsive and had no pressure. […] Now that there’s a customer on the other side, I give myself pressure, way too much pressure, to make the pack as good as it can be—functionally, aesthetically—so when they get it, it’s super obvious, like, ‘Of course this is my backpack!’. A good way to visualize it is if there were a big pile of packs in a variety of colors, shapes, sizes, functions, the customer would be able to walk up to the pile and easily pick the one that resonates best with them. I want to be able to make them that one.”
Check out more of his work here.