Sardinian native Antonio Marras became the first designer to replace Kenzo after he retired after 30 years at Kenzo. It is curious that the Italian joined the Japanese company in 2003, and received the position of creative director only in 2008. From 2011 to the present day, Kenzo collections have been managed by the design duo Carol Lim and Umberto Leon, the founders of the Opening Ceremony brand.
Bunka Fashion College
Tokyo school, where Kenzo Takada studied. He became one of the first male students in the history of the college at the time of admission: traditionally, only girls went to study there. The designer's father owned a tea house and the family wanted Kenzo to become a literary man. He even studied for one semester in this specialty, but in the end he decided to replay everything in his own way.
© Sankei Archive via Getty Images
East meets West
Kenzo became the first Japanese designer to be successful in the West. In his collections, he reconciled the East with Western fashion, used patterns popular in Japan, worked with color and created things that were strikingly different from those that were popular in France in the 1960s.
In 2005, Kenzo launched the Gokan Kobo brand, which creates furniture, tableware and home objects.
The first store, which Kenzo opened in 1969 in the Parisian gallery Vivienne, was called Jungle Jap ("Japanese jungle"). The designer himself was engaged in the repair, restoration and decoration of the premises. The walls were decorated with drawings reminiscent of paintings by Henri Rousseau. However, images of tropical flowers and carved leaves, as well as animals that live in the jungle, were present in many collections of the brand and survived after the departure of its founder. In 2016, Kenzo even released a joint collection with Disney based on the cartoon "The Jungle Book".
1 of 3 Disney and KENZO Collection based on the Jungle Book © Craig Barritt / Getty Images for KENZO © Craig Barritt / Getty Images for KENZO © Craig Barritt / Getty Images for KENZO
In 2012, Kenzo brought back the sweatshirt wardrobe with a large, embroidered tiger. The garment has been one of the brand's bestsellers for several seasons, and the tiger has undergone changes. In general, predators have always been present in the works of Kenzo himself. He introduced them back in the 1980s. In 2018, Kenzo partnered with WWF to launch the Rare Stripes charity collection, all of which went to the Tiger Rescue Fund. Four artists from Singapore, Cambodia, USA and Malaysia worked on the collection.
1 of 5 Rare Stripes Collection, 2018 © KENZO / Tiger Beer © KENZO / Tiger Beer © KENZO / Tiger Beer © KENZO / Tiger Beer © KENZO / Tiger Beer
Among Kenzo's friends were all the key persons of the fashionable French arena: he was on excellent relations with both Saint Laurent, whom he considered his idol, and with Karl Lagerfeld, whom he spoke of as an older brother. Kenzo's famous clients included Jerry Hall and Grace Jones. By the way, they were the ones who took part in the 1977 show at the iconic Studio 54 club in New York. Already famous in their homeland, they wanted to draw attention to the designer when his brand entered the American market.
Takada Kenzo and Grace Jones © Nury Hernandez / New York Post Archives / (c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images
But the first famous client of Kenzo in Paris was Zizi Fero, the wife of the designer Louis Fero, popular at that time.
Today Takada Kenzo is also known as an interior designer. Recently, he began to work with Roche Bobois, a large French furniture retailer.
Textiles and ceramics by Kenzo Takada for Roche Bobois
Japanese national costumes regularly became the foundation of Kenzo's work. He took as a basis the cut, details, silhouette, preserved traditional sleeves and combined all this with elements of national costumes from other regions - from Scandinavia to Latin America. “Before, I didn't really like the Japanese style, but I came to the conclusion that the cut of the kimono is simple and beautiful. Kimonos have greatly influenced my work,”the designer once said.
© Bertrand Rindoff Petroff
In 1993 Kenzo sold his brand to the LVMH concern. In 1999, he made the last collection for Kenzo and completely retired. At that time he was 60 years old.
Helene Arnault, Takada Kenzo and Bernard Arnault © Bertrand Rindoff Petroff
“Fashion is not meant for a narrow circle, it is for everyone. Besides, fashion shouldn't be too serious,”Kenzo said. His brand was one of the first to create collections with more budget brands - long before such collaborations became popular. For example, in the 1980s, Kenzo launched a joint collection with The Limited. And in 2016 a sensational collaboration with H&M was released.
1 of 13 Kenzo & H&M Collaborations, 2016 © kenzo.com © kenzo.com © kenzo.com © kenzo.com © kenzo.com © kenzo.com © kenzo.com © kenzo.com © kenzo.com © kenzo.com © kenzo.com
“When I first launched the brand, I didn't think it would become as big as it is today. I just believed that I had my own ideas, which were unlike anything else,”Kenzo recalled. The designer sewed the first collections from materials that he found in flea markets (again, ahead of trends by several decades), actively used oriental fabrics, offered free-cut things, successfully integrating the aesthetics of the hippie style into his works. He is also credited with such a phenomenon as destructured couture. Kenzo was among the first to start showing ready-to-wear collections in the early 1970s, when it was not yet popular, and was able to turn the classic catwalk into a real show that attracted many guests.
After a model in a Kenzo flower dress appeared on the cover of one of the 1970 French Elle issues, the Japanese designer became famous. By the way, Kenzo himself tried modeling: he appeared on the catwalk and posed for magazines.
Paris was the main dream of the young Kenzo. His fascination with fashion began in early childhood, when the future designer dressed up his sister's dolls and looked at the pages of fashion magazines, in which, he said, he saw joie de vivre (joy of life). However, when he found himself in this city in 1965, he was somewhat discouraged: “I took a taxi and thought - how dull and dull Paris is. It was that very Paris, the capital of fashion, the city that I had dreamed of for so long, and it all looked so sad,”the designer later recalled.
Kenzo in his Paris workshop © Pierre Vauthey / Sygma / Sygma via Getty Images
Kenzo's collections had a lot of a la russe style: headscarves that resembled floral Pavloposad shawls, oversized sundresses in bright colors and spacious shirts gathered at the neck. He willingly used lace trim and created images reminiscent of elegant painted nesting dolls. Antonio Marras also often used Russian motives in his collections for the brand.
One of the most popular models of the 1970s became Kenzo's muse. The brand's creative directors still remember her important role in the life of a designer. So, the collection of the spring-summer season - 2018 was divided into two parts, one of which was called "Love letter to Saeko". In addition, only models of Asian origin took part in the show.
Saeko Yamaguchi © Jun Sato / WireImage
When the brand entered the American market in the 1970s, Kenzo prepared items specifically for the windows of Macy's. There were his signature wide-leg trousers, hooded sundresses, loose-sleeved jackets, and sweatshirts that quickly began to enjoy unprecedented success in the States.
Luck and success
Kenzo gained recognition quickly enough, given that he came to Paris with practically no money and without knowledge of any foreign language, and ten years later he entered the American market. But the 1980s became a real breakthrough decade for him: in 1983, the designer launched a men's line, in 1986 - Kenzo Jeans, as well as a collection of clothes for teenagers. In 1987 he opened a children's direction, in 1988 he launched perfumes and beauty care products on the market. In the same year, he launched Kenzo City women, and in 1992, the brand appeared in the Kenzo Maison home goods direction. More than eight hundred people came to Kenzo's last show, and another three thousand crowded indoors and outdoors. As a result, the show even had to be paused in the middle because the models simply could not move.
© Levent Kulu / Getty Images for IMG
Folk costumes from all over the world became a limitless source of inspiration for Kenzo. In addition to Japanese kimonos, he reinterpreted Indian nehru costumes, turbans, saris, Peruvian pollers and huyuns, Spanish mantilla and much more.
A photographer whom Kenzo always gave full carte blanche to. It was Feurer who shot the brand's best advertising campaigns featuring Iman, Saeko Yamaguchi and Kim Williams. He perfectly understood Kenzo and knew how to convey the mood and aesthetics of the brand. “Kenzo and I are good friends and are absolutely on the same wavelength. I really love his work, I love that he made ethnic motives fashionable. His approach can be compared to what Benetton became famous for: fashion for everyone, all skin colors and all cultures are beautiful. He came up with the idea that a person should be open to ideas other than his own,”- said Feurer in an interview with The Cut.
Hans Feurer © David M. Benett / Getty Images for Kenzo
Flowers have always played an important role in Kenzo's work. He found even small flower shops in Paris incredibly beautiful and explained this by the fact that there were practically no flower shops in post-war Japan. It was he who introduced the floral ornament into fashion, and in 1994 decorated the Pont-Neuf bridge in Paris with 10,000 fresh flowers. In 1999, he also chose flowers as the main theme for his latest collection.
A sense of freedom
When it comes to describing Kenzo silhouettes, the word “free” comes to mind first. Freedom is a defining factor in both Takada Kenzo's collections and in his life. The designer not only lived without limiting himself into frames and disregarding the established rules, but shared this feeling with others, with his clients. “The Kenzo woman is free in every sense. She is beautiful and dynamic. I think I brought the concept of freedom to fashion, to the manner of wearing things, moving in them and using color,”said Kenzo.
1 of 4 Kenzo show, 1986 © Pierre Vauthey / Sygma / Sygma via Getty Images © Pierre Vauthey / Sygma / Sygma via Getty Images © Pierre Vauthey / Sygma / Sygma via Getty Images
Along with Thierry Mugler, Kenzo transformed an ordinary fashion show into a performance, a performance to which tickets could be bought. In 1978-1979, Kenzo shows were held in circus tents, where, in addition to models, there were professional artists, and the designer himself appeared astride an elephant. The brand is returning to circus aesthetics with new creative leaders. For example, in 2017, Natasha Lyonne starred in the Kenzo project as Jelsomina, the heroine of Federico Fellini's The Road.
The motives of infantilism, noticeable in things, as if borrowed from children's wardrobe, have become an important component of the brand. The designer had a fondness for simplified forms, deliberately large berets, as if removed from dolls, knitted vests, knee-length shorts, and cropped coats. An easy outlook on life and the desire to remain forever young are also characteristic of Kenzo himself. Today, he is no longer in fashion, switching to interior design. After retiring, the designer began to learn to play the piano and take ballet lessons. By that time, he was over sixty years old.
© Pierre Vauthey / Sygma / Sygma via Getty Images
In Paris Kenzo received the nickname Jap (Japanese). At first, almost no one called him by name. The brand was also called Jungle Jap and was renamed Kenzo only when the designer was setting up work in the United States, where he had problems because of this word. Kenzo received a subpoena from members of the Japanese-American League, demanding to rename the company or remove the word Jap from the name - it reminded people of the nationalist rallies after the Pearl Harbor bombing. For a long time, the designer basically did not want to call his brand Kenzo, because he was too modest and preferred to be called JAP. The brand was finally renamed only in 1984.>