Another Covid 19 victim, Kenzo Takada, died on October 4, 2020 while the Fashion Week was going full swing. Tribute in the form of a “Chinese portrait” to the atypical stylist that he was, an eternal teenager with an extraordinary career, in love with nature and colors. Simply in love with life.
If I were a city? Paris
Although born in Japan, Kenzo spent his entire career in France after studying at a fashion school in the land of the rising sun. After a sailing trip of 1 month and a half, he arrived in Marseille before realizing his dream of settling in the Fashion capital; where he will spend the rest of his life.
After a few years of hard work, he became the first Japanese designer to make his mark on the Parisian fashion scene, with productions alternating between women’s and men’s fashion, perfumes and decoration. Reputed for his flamboyant graphics, his floral prints, the use of shimmering colors, he takes the dust off a highly codified Haute Couture by making it cheerful and offering cutting-edge designs, inspired by his Japanese origins. For a long time an independent label, the Kenzo brand was finally purchased by LVMH in 1993. Kenzo was undoubtedly the most French of all Japanese brands.
What if I was a work of art? “Le Rêve” by Douanier Rousseau
This painting has strongly influenced the Kenzo universe since his arrival in Paris in 1964. As a tribute to him, he drew inspiration from a tropical jungle that served as the backdrop for his first boutique in the 1970s, and which gave him the name of his pioneering brand, “Jungle Jap”. This universe will never leave him; a complete collection “Memento n° 3” offered him a contemporary version of the painting’s wild nature. Lush foliage and colorful vegetation will be transposed on strong pieces of the collection (dresses, pants or coats) in the form of printed tapestries. Jungle Jap will be renamed KENZO only in 1976.
If I were an animal? The tiger
Since the launch of its brand in the 1970s, Kenzo has made the tiger the emblematic animal of its brand. Fascinated by its power, he projected it on numerous pieces during his fashion shows, before making it the ultimate master of a capsule collection in 2020. Sensitive to the protection of the environment and animals, a portion of the sale price of the basics made will be donated to WWF, as part of a program called “TX2”, which aims to rapidly double the population of wild tigers.
If I were a flower? The poppy
The perfume adventure began in 1988, crowned in the early 2000s by the success of “Flower by Kenzo”. More than a perfume, it offers a global concept that is somewhat unusual! Based on the audacious idea that the poppy has no smell, the red flower becomes nevertheless the emblem of the successful fragrance. The bottle designed by Serge Mansau, “the man with 250 bottles”, is available in 3 sizes, each representing the different stages of the poppy’s budding.
An anecdotal note: the inspiration for the bottle comes from Marc Riboud’s photo “La jeune fille à la fleur” (The girl with the flower) taken in 1967 during a demonstration in Washington against American intervention in Vietnam. It shows a woman armed with a flower, facing the soldiers with guns. A bottle for peace that certainly commemorates the reconciliation between the West and the East, two cultures so dear to his heart.
If I were a garment? The kimono
Precursor of the no gender clothing, the Kenzo style is identified thanks to ample, little structured forms where the barriers between men’s and women’s fashion are abolished. Japanese cottons and kimonos are regularly featured, revisited in more contemporary versions with multicultural inspirations.
The inventiveness (and lack of financial means) of the young designer also set the trend for upcycling well ahead of its time; the first looks made with the assembly of scraps of fabric with colorful prints already foreshadowed his genius.
What if I was a last project? K3
After leaving the world of fashion, but never the world of design, Kenzo Takada took up a new challenge by designing furniture under his own brand, K3. If this experience was not new for him, in January 2020 he signed a complete collection for home.
As a true aesthete, art collector and painter in his spare time, this design enthusiast had already collaborated with major houses: the commercial success of the MAH Jong sofa from Roche Bobois, it’s him, the crystal Buddha from Baccarat, it’s still him.
At the age of 81, insatiable and tireless, he still had the audacity to imagine Lotus armchairs, Japanese bedside tables or a tissue paper screen decorated with a precious geisha kimono. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the time to appreciate the new success.
If I were an accessory: The handkerchief
Always very popular in Japan, Kenzo has designed many models throughout his career. All that’s left for the owners to do is to dry their tears of sorrow with the precious fabrics, as a sign of last homage to Mr. Kenzo Takada.