Wednesday , October 20 2021

Fashion legend Kenzo lifts veil on colorful legacy


Franco-Japanese fashion designer Kenzo Takada restores her career in a new book (AFP image)

PARIS: Kenzo Takada, the French-Japanese designer who retired at the height of his colorful career almost 20 years ago, wants to show the world how he came up with the groundbreaking patterns that helped the catapult wave of Japanese creators to the Paris scene.

After years of taking time for himself, "I needed to do something again to work," he told AFP.

"I'm very happy, but sometimes I feel nostalgic."

The result is a new book that traces its path since he arrived in France as a young man with dreams of bringing his patterns to life in the striking heart of the fashion world.

"Kenzo Takada," released Wednesday, turns into his French adventure with more than 40 years of sketches, pictures and memories, until his last banquet show in the Parisian Zenith concert hall.

The highlight is undoubtedly a previously unraveled image that reads readers through the creation of a delicious wedding dress from its autumn and winter collection 1982-83.

His fans get an intimate glimpse of a master at work: A drawing book with drawings, Kenzo in his workshop with the long assistant Atsuko Kondo, a ballet slipper that painted red as time was too tight to predict the right shoes.

"We just started two days before the show!" Kenzo said in an interview in Paris.

"The theme of this collection was flowers. This wedding dress, draped in flower wreaths, was the image of the collection itself, a kind of symbol," he said.

To perfect the composition, Kenzo digged into a large collection of bands – old and new, smooth or embroidered – accumulated over the years.

Paris seemed so sad

The brand vibrating and bold colors of Japan's most famous designer is in many ways the exact opposite of what he found on his arrival in the French capital.

"I arrived at Gare de Lyon on the night of January 1, 1965. It was dark and the station was old, dirty, black," he recalled.

"I took a taxi and my first impression of Paris was that it was gloomy and gloomy. It was Paris, the fashion capital, the city I had dreamed of, and it seemed so sad," he said.

"But then, Taxi went by Notre Dame … it was magnificent."

In a letter to his mother he describes bread so well he eats too much and only baths once a week because the public bath is too expensive.

But he also describes the overwhelming beauty of the flower shops, which was abundant in Paris but a rarity in Tokyo at that time.

After succeeding in selling some of his drawings to newspapers including Elle, he opened his first shop in the elegant Vivienne Gallery in 1969, decorated it with jungle motif and dubbed his trademark "Jungle Jap".

"At that time, synthetic fabrics were fashionable in Paris, and the clothes were quite stupid. During a visit to Japan, I bought colored fabrics in cotton," he said.

He also borrowed from Kimono's meticulous designs, giving rise to colorful colors while injecting new energy into shows with models that would jump, jump and dance on the track.

With flowing patterns that broke with the strict lines of dominated couture, he also gave a new license for women's bodies to breathe and move freely.

After driving his vision in the 1970s and 80s, Kenzo finally sold his brand to the French fashion giant LVMH 1993, which now focuses on perfumes, skin care and fashion.

"I think I got the freedom to fashion, how the clothes are wearing, how they move in, the colors," he said.

"The Kenzo woman is a free woman, beautiful and dynamic."

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