PARIS — It’s a new day at Kenzo. When Felipe Oliveira Baptista shows his debut collection for the French fashion house today, the change will be apparent before the first look hits the runway.
Under former creative directors Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, the shows often took the form of artistic performances staged after dark. Baptista, by contrast, hopes to take full advantage of the daylight with his display, to be held at 10:30 a.m. in a transparent tent in the garden of the National Institute for Deaf Children.
“We went from night into day,” the designer told WWD in a preview at the Kenzo headquarters on Rue Vivienne. “Everybody’s going to be front row and everyone’s going to be looking at the clothes really, really, really close by.”
The structure is reusable. “It can be packed away like a tent and it can be blown up again next season, and nature will take care of the rest of the decoration. And I think that’s quite sustainable and it’s an interesting way of thinking of doing things in a different way,” Baptista noted.
“It even can be divided into parts, which means we can do a pop-up with part of this structure somewhere and then put it back together to show in the same garden or somewhere else. It’s been a big challenge because it’s a very experimental concept, but I hope it works,” he added.
The coed display marks the brand’s return to the women’s wear calendar, after several years of showing on the men’s schedule.
Style-wise, it will also represent a 180-degree turn. Where Leon and Kim celebrated youth culture and diversity with their colorful creations, Oliveira is working a decidedly more muted palette, with elongated silhouettes punctuated with zips that are designed to play with volume and proportions.
“I think in Kenzo Takada’s world there was always a sense of freedom, and the space between the body and the clothes was always very important, so it’s a very strong silhouette and a lot of allure, but very comfortable as well,” he said.
“We are in a day and age in fashion where people don’t suffer anymore to look smart. It was all a play on proportions, silhouette, layering, things getting turned upside down and zipping half of things, zips giving more movement and different shape to things. I really like this idea that clothes are there to help us and to adapt to our life.”
Channeling an Eighties sportswear vibe, the former Lacoste designer has layered the looks with protective details: tied boots, leather collar bibs and monastic caps. Capes are printed with collages of tiger paintings by Portuguese artist Júlio Pomar, or prints drawn from the Kenzo archives: roses or horses painted into soft, camouflage-like motifs.
It’s part of his new brief for the house: “enthusiastic, nomadic and open to the world,” in the words of the press release revealing the brand’s updated logo, developed with Paris graphic design studio M/M, alongside a streamlined version of its emblematic tiger, which features on the show invitation.
“It’s almost like we gave a more iconic version of it. It’s not roaring, it’s in a way more quiet, I suppose,” Baptista explained. “I really wanted to go back to fundamentals and essentials.”
Describing the brand logo — now stripped of the word “Paris” — as “more geometric and playful,” he said it was designed to be broken up into parts. “You can see as well in further collections how the K is going to become a new emblem of the brand, so it’s planting seeds to write a new chapter of the brand, style-wise,” he said.
Baptista hopes his new take on Kenzo, which is owned by luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, will appeal to a broader client base.
“I think it’s great that it still remains the affordable brand of the group. I do think that youthfulness is not just targeted to the very young; I think youthfulness is a state of mind as well,” he explained.
“Things get more interesting when they’re a little bit more open, and I think Kenzo Takada had a lot of that at the beginning: He was dressing sometimes the mom and the daughter at the same time,” he noted. “I like the idea of blending it all.”