Kenzo: How the West Was Won

Celebrating 40 Years of the Brand’s Cross-Cultural Exoticism

Alongside Hanae Mori and Issey Miyake, Kenzo Takada was one of the first Japanese fashion designers to make an impact in the West. Establishing the house of Kenzo in Paris in 1970, he immediately wowed the fashion world with his dense, colorful prints, loose silhouettes, and folkloric exoticism, inspired by his month-long boat journey from Japan to France. As his designs began to fill magazine pages, Takada developed his company into a whole universe, encompassing fragrance, home decor, jeans and children’s lines. He retired in 1999, but the company received a breath of fresh air in 2003 when Antonio Marras was hired to oversee the women’s division. The Italian designer sought to give Kenzo back “some of its original spirit and primitive strength,” and was named overall creative director in 2008. For Kenzo’s 40th anniversary show this October, Marras chose to celebrate both the new spirit of Kenzo and the lush creations of its founder, with models towering over the audience at Paris’s Cirque d’Hiver (Winter Circus), ingeniously styled with a mix of archival pieces and Marras’s own designs. Spending much of the year in his native Sardinia, Marras continues to mastermind his own, self-titled line, for which he channels “personal, intimate and nostalgic codes.” His ecstatic Kenzo collections, meanwhile, which toy with Takada’s aesthetic of cultural displacement, are all about “the party and the joy.” Be sure to read our full interview with Marras—in which he talks inspiration and guilty pleasures—here

Today, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London honors 40 years of the vibrant brand with its Fashion in Motion: Kenzo exhibition. A new book on the company’s history, Kenzo, is out now from Rizzoli.

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Conversations (1)

  • bigpoohbear
    Love the unique styles of the West.

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