Kenzo Takada: A Tribute

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The Tiger. That’s what you are all thinking when someone states the brand ‘Kenzo’ to you right? 

Those vibrant tiger emblem sweatshirts or ‘the eye’ t-shirt print are iconic. You cannot go on a typical night out in Manchester city centre, or anywhere for that matter, without seeing someone wearing it, thinking because its a well-known, designer brand that they can get into any club or fancy bar. 

My first designer purchase was a Kenzo sweater. I was around 15 years old and I thought I was very cool and trendy with my ‘Kenzo Paris’ logo jumper that I bought from the children’s section of farfetch.com.

Sadly though, for those of you who are unaware, on the 4th of October 2020 Kenzo Takada, aged 81, passed away after contracting Covid-19. This is a devastating loss in the fashion world, particularly for the Paris fashion scene. Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris, actually took to Twitter to write, ‘he had given colour and light their place in fashion.’ Takada ultimately changed the direction of fashion in the 1970s, with his East meets West inspired designs. Not only was he one of the first Japanese designers to succeed in Paris and also internationally, but he is also deemed one of the original designers to work on the vision of genderless fashion.

It began in Paris in 1970, the age of iconic retro but classy style: flares, bell-bottoms and Diane von Fürstenberg. Takada gambled on buying a one-way ticket to Paris to re-start his life and in turn his career. Kenzo Takada’s inspiration is said to originate from the famous artist, Henri Rousseau. In the beginning, Takada could not afford to pay for prints and textiles to work with, so he painted on the walls of his first little boutique on Galerie Vivienne naming it, ‘Jungle Jap’. However, problems with the name caused it to be rebranded, and ‘Kenzo’ was born in 1971. It was revolutionary, completely different from the usual Parisienne style and sophistication with its urban themes and pops of electric colour. The brand was such a huge success that ‘Kenzo’ was sold in 1993 to become part of the luxury good conglomerate, LVMH. Now, it is run by US cult designers Humbert Leon and Carol Lim of Opening Ceremony who create the unique designs we see in Selfridges and Harvey Nichols today. I am interested to see how the Kenzo label will change and develop in the future.

Vogue Runway quoted Kenzo Takada who stated, ‘I’d like to be remembered as a designer who crossed boundaries.’ This quote is so powerful, as I believe that in today’s society it is important that we are able to do this; to cross boundaries and explore different avenues not only within fashion. Takada’s story about starting from nothing and taking a risk to create a spiritus, now well-known brand, are my favourite ones to read about. I find this particular story bewitching, the gamble that was taken just because of the love and passion he had for art and textiles is truly inspirational. I will continue to love Kenzo Takada’s brand and purchase his collection, as his legacy lives on. 

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