The first Japanese fashion designer to break France and based in Paris for 56 years, Kenzo Takada, founder of Kenzo, passed away on Sunday October 4th due to Covid-19. He was 81.
A poetic and bright creative
With Paris Fashion Week in full swing and the Kenzo catwalk show overseen by Felipe Oliveira Baptista on September 30th, the brand’s founder, Kenzo Takada sadly passed away. The great creative moved to France in 1965 when he was 26 after graduating from Bunka Fashion College and spending a month travelling by boat.
At the time his idol was Yves Saint Laurent, the man who made him want to become a fashion designer at the age of 14. The world capital slowly opened its doors to him whilst he hit the flea markets and Saint Pierre Market selling many of his designs to brands like Courrèges. Five years later, he opened his first shop in Passage Vivienne in Paris. It was called Jungle Jap and sold his first collection of comfortable, loose clothes with bold shapes and surprising colour combos.
Flowers and plants gradually became part of his signature. He renamed the brand Kenzo in 1971 as it was more graphic and striking. His optimism, innocence and joy were celebrated throughout his career. His layers, ruffled pieces and oversize kimonos were all adorned with fabulous plant prints: the 70s made a huge impression on his pieces. We can’t forget Takada’s bold events: a floral Pont Neuf for the first day of summer, a poppy field on the Centre Pompidou forecourt and models on white horses. His spontaneous creations went against the trends and were loved by Jerry Hall and Grace Jones.
A fan of diversity
Kenzo Takada spent 30 years revealing his Japanese roots in his designs but he also delved into influences as wide-ranging as African, Slav and Indian. His rite of passage to France is what played a key role in the brand. “At the start, I didn’t think of pairing this journey with fashion. The cultures I discovered on my trip to Djibouti and my time in Africa only turned into inspirations after a few years. I had a very Parisian image of fashion and I never thought of the ethnic side to it. The ethnic aspect came out with memories of my journey when I launched my first collections. It helped me a great deal,” he said.
The designer sold his brand to the LVMH group in 1993 and left the company in 1999 to devote himself to his other passions: interior design and painting. Kenzo Takada is the one who opened the doors for the many Japanese designers we know today: from Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake to Rei Kawakubo and Chitose Abe. His name, love of flowers and multiculturalism shall never be forgotten.