Kenzo Takada, world renowned for founding the eponymous brand KENZO, a fearless and innovative designer who introduced Japanese aesthetics to the world, died on October 4, 2020 due to complications connected to coronavirus in a hospital outside the French capital, in Neuilly-sur-Seine on Sunday.
“He gave us color and freedom in the choice of silhouettes,” said French President Emmanuel Macron, and he is undoubtedly right. Appearing at Paris Fashion Week alongside Yohi Yamamoto, Ray Kawakubo and Issei Miyake in the 80s, a decade of courageous style, colors
and silhouettes, Takada paved the way for all Japanese designers on the Parisian and global stage. How did he get to Paris and how did fashion come into his life?
“I was once told that a Japanese man can never work in the fashion industry in Paris. Men couldn’t go to design schools. Creative thinking was absolutely not accepted by Japanese society in the 1950s. It was at that time that my parents completely rejected my desire to work in the fashion industry ”- Kenzo will say one day in his Paris, which attracts as much attention as the designer himself. Once the Bunka Fashion College allowed male students to come on board, Takada became one of the first male students to study fashion design in Japan. His dream has always been Paris and in 1964, after graduating from Bunka with honors for outstanding talent, Takada went to Paris. Its rise in the Paris arena was happening at a rapid pace, thanks to the opportunity to expose his collections in trendy and prestigious locations – from galleries to fashion magazine offices and shops.
In 1970, Takada opened his first store in Paris, Jungle Jap (English for «Japanese from the jungle,» a derogatory slang term used in the West to refer to Japanese). The store’s background was green, inspired by a painting by Rousseau, as well as Kenzo’s eternal love for flowers that have become an invariable element in his collections. The store immediately attracted the public with its vibrant floral mix of Japanese and French fabrics. Takada had to change the name of his store as it was criticized for being politically incorrect. This is how the versatile and culturally rich style and brand KENZO was born. “In fact, the KENZO era is so vibrant. In the beginning it was a mix of fabrics from the Parisian flea market with the use of Asia, providing Kenzo with timeless style and fashion. If you look at his collection through the prism of 1970s Parisian fashion dictated by Karl Lagerfeld and Saint-Laurent, Kenzo stood out in luxury, because he defined the pret-a-porter and street style of the time. ”(Carol Lim and Umberto León, former creative directors of KENZO) .
In 1976, Kenzo opened a flagship boutique in Place des Victoires, adjacent to the Palace Royale, further promoting his brand. He was expanding and growing his creativity – in 1983 the first men’s collection appears; 1986 the first collections of KENZO Jeans and KENZO Jungle
teenage clothing; 1987 – collection for home and bath-room; in 1988 Takada creates his first perfume; in 1992 launches KENZO Maison. Such a flow of creativity and business orientation attracted attention to the fashion house and in 1993 KENZO was bought by the French
luxury group LVMH. Takada retained his role as Creative Director for another 6 years and retired in 1999 to mark the 30th anniversary of his company.
After his retirement from fashion, Kenzo Takada left the world of luxury fashion at the age of 60, but continued his creative journey and was working with the stage costumes created for the French opera and painting until October 2020, having died from the complications of COVID-19.
The world renowned brand KENZO has immortalized his name, still preserving the mix and western culture thanks to Carol Lim and Umberto Leon, who worked hard to preserve Takada’s unique style and bring a new breath to his collections. The brand now continues to grow and flourish under the creative direction of Felipe Oliveira Baptista.
The entire global fashion industry expressed their condolences and their eternal love for the designer. Numéro Russia decided to immortalize the most touching of them:
“Kenzo Takada, since the 1970s, has infused global fashion with notes of poetic lightness and sweet freedom that have inspired many designers since him.” – Bernard Arnault, LVMH owner and CEO of Kenzo.
“Kenzo has made his shows an absolute joy. It was bright and playful, just like its design. And he was celebrating Black Women! I loved being invited into his world. «Akure Vol, model and muse of Kenzo.
“Kenzo Takada was incredibly creative. With his genius, he created a new artistic and colorful story linking East and West – his Japanese and Parisian life. I have been fortunate enough to work with him for many years, always admiring with trepidation his entrepreneurial spirit and openness. He always had an interest in life. Kenzo Takada was the epitome of the «art of living.»” Jonathan Boucher, CEO of K-3, one of Kenzo’s latest projects.
“Throughout his life, Kenzo has always been a happy, generous enthusiast. Everything that was associated with him was always big; he laughed big, he danced big, he ate big, he drank big. Kenzo was bigger than his life; he was the epitome of “joie de vivre” (French for enjoying life) ”- 70s supermodel Marie Helvin.
“It’s so sad to hear about your passing today ... I will always remember your smile and humble demeanor ... and the light that you brought to all of us.” – Naomi Campbell.
“Thank you for teaching me generosity to share my happiness ... I will devote every joyful moment of my life to you!” – Giambattista Valli.
Kenzo Takada will forever remain in our hearts a happy dreamer who made us fall in love with Japanese design.