Kenzo FW21: A modern homage to the past

Published April 9, 2021, 7:09 AM

by Jules Vivas

The new collection celebrates Kenzo Takada, carrying his vision in a contemporary approach

The fashion world was taken aback by the passing of Kenzo Takada on Oct. 4 last year. At the age of 81, the pioneer famous for introducing his authentic kimono designs and free-flowing silhouettes to European runways in the ‘70s, as well as for establishing the French luxury fashion house named after him (Kenzo), had succumbed to COVID-19. And yet, the brand’s creative director, Felipe Oliveira Bautista, turned grief into inspiration when he created the fall/winter 2020-2021 (FW21) collection called “Always Takada.”

Felipe admits that his acquaintance with the fashion icon was brief. “Nevertheless, it felt like I lost someone close to me,” he intimates. To produce this year’s collection, the 45-year-old couturier had to reflect on the past, looking into restored videos of shows from 1978 and 1985, Takada’s glory days. Archival garments from old were cataloged, studied, and reworked.

UN CERTAIN STYLE DE VIE Kenzo Takeda in a shoot in Paris (File photo from AFP)

“I was struck by the magic of the shows: the intuition, the freedom, how the clothes were always moving. It made me want to portray the movement, the comfort, and the freedom these clothes gave you. That’s very much what Kenzo stood for,” says the Portuguese fashion designer, sharing how he felt while reviewing the footage of the previous collections.

From a visceral yearning for life and the lust for freedom, the collection was born.

Felipe pays tribute to the Kenzo founder by evoking Takada’s presence through intuitive ideas. For the streetwear of 21st-century Kenzo, the new custodian applied the orbital, spherical, folkloric, and cross-cultural style of Takada into simple and contemporized materials, all presented in an eclectic fashion film.

The film showing models dancing to a harmony of shapes, colors, and patterns was shot in Cirque d’Hiver, where Takada often presented his collections. The music is an original soundtrack by English artist Planningtorock. The way the models improvise dance on the round runway highlights Takada’s values, the art of self-expression, folkloric motifs, and monochromatic futurism.

The garments in exuberant patterns have elements that the Japanese designer was fond of such as tulips, hydrangeas, pansies, and stripes, but built like protective bodysuits. Felipe explains this as “the duality between getting ready to face the world again, but also being covered with loud, beautiful things.”

More important, it is, as written in the video description, “an offering to Kenzo of all things he cherished.”

Takada’s works are visually powerful but also comfortable and easy to wear. The new collection stays true to this but it has also been adjusted to fit our current situation. This is how Felipe has revolutionized the brand into becoming an organic response to the challenges of the health crisis.

Watch the fashion film here.

 
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