He is to join the brand on Monday and will unveil his first collection, fall 2020 for men and women, next February.
Oliveira Baptista, who was creative director of Lacoste from 2010 to 2018, succeeds designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, who revealed they were leaving Kenzo in June after eight years at the house to focus on their U.S.-based Opening Ceremony store chain and fashion label.
“What made us choose Felipe above other candidates is the fact that he has a global artistic approach,” Sylvie Colin, chief executive officer of Kenzo since 2017, told WWD.
“He has a 360-degree creative vision and will oversee artistic direction globally, dealing both with collections and communication,” she continued.
The executive stated it was too early to say if this would lead to a possible change of logo or retail identity, simply commenting that as Oliveira Baptista will oversee global image direction for the label, “it will impact the brand’s entire communication.”
Known for his artfully constructed and experimental creations, Oliveira Baptista, who hails from Portugal but is based in Paris, created his namesake label in 2003 with his partner Séverine Oliveira Baptista, a year after winning the main fashion prize at the Festival d’Hyères. The brand has been on hold since 2014.
“Felipe’s style is very compatible with our DNA,” said Colin. “It’s about a certain daily sophistication, silhouettes that are both chic and sporty, which is pretty much the essence of Kenzo. Felipe’s creative talent is innovative, but at the same time his clothes are deeply rooted in real life.”
Séverine Oliveira Baptista, who was involved on the creative side of both the designer’s namesake brand and his stint at Lacoste, will also be a “close collaborator” for this new project, but no further details were revealed.
In a statement, LVMH Fashion Group chairman and ceo Sidney Toledano praised Oliveira Baptista’s nomination.
“Felipe’s talent as a designer, his expertise in clothing and his personal attachment to diverse cultures will be valuable assets in rejuvenating the creative energy at the maison,” said the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton executive.
Under Oliveira Baptista’s tenure at Lacoste, revenues grew from around 1 billion euros in 2009 to more than 2 billion euros in 2016. The designer built on the momentum created by his predecessor Christophe Lemaire, who was credited with reviving the brand, tripling its sales during his decade-long tenure there.
At Lacoste, the 44-year-old Oliveira Baptista’s brought in multiple collaborators to reinterpret the heritage French sportswear brand’s history, including Supreme, Maison Lesage, Jean-Paul Goude and Yazbukey, reinventing among other things the brand’s iconic crocodile logo polo shirt.
A year before Kenzo’s 50th anniversary — the fashion house was created by Japanese designer Kenzo Takada in 1970 — Oliviera Baptista’s knack for updating a brand’s heritage didn’t go unnoticed by the LVMH-owned label.
“His latest fashion experience proved that he knows how to combine past, present and future,” said Colin. “Felipe loves to delve into archives, and he does it without nostalgia. He knows how to reinterpret a brand’s codes in a completely current way, even if it means doing something bold and disruptive. It’s the right combination for Kenzo.”
A winner of three fashion prizes throughout his career — in addition to Hyères, the Kingston University graduate took home the Andam Award in both 2003 and 2005 — Oliveira Baptista is an avid music fan, confessing a passion for both hip-hop and electronic music.
This predisposition might come in handy when it comes to creating special projects for Kenzo, a brand that became known for its prolific artistic collaborations under Leon and Lim’s tenure. The designers commissioned photographers and filmmakers including Jean-Paul Goude, David LaChapelle, Gregg Araki and Sean Baker to work on their campaign shoots and films, and at their final show in Paris last month, had Solange and a brass band perform.
“Music might be one of the creative approaches Felipe will take,” said Colin. “Kenzo has always been close to the arts and encouraged new talents, something that was impulsed by Mr. Takada and that Carol and Humberto managed to reinvent. We are going to pursue these artistic projects, but their format is yet to be defined.”
For the designer, Kenzo represents above all “contagious freedom and movement.”
“Everything M. Takada did was suffused with joy, elegance and a youthful and bold sense of humor,” said Oliveira Baptista, who is planning to sit down for a chat with the label’s founder in the near future.
“Kenzo’s constant celebration of nature and cultural diversity has always been and remains at the heart of the brand. These two subjects have never felt more relevant and compelling than they do today and will be instrumental to the future of Kenzo.”