KENZO MAKES HIS MARK

Byline: Godfrey Deeny

PARIS — Two years after his house was acquired by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Kenzo Takada is eager to reestablish his business in the U.S.
“In the Seventies, the great department stores ordered our collection. I’d like lots of American women to know my fashion again,” he said in a recent interview at his Paris headquarters.
Kenzo said he believes Kenzo Studio is right for the young American consumer.
“Studio will be modern, young, fresh and quite similar to Kenzo Jungle [his diffusion collection],” he said. “The style is very close. We will use the same fabric, but it will be produced in Asia.”
The designer plans to visit New York in September for the opening of a 2,500-square-foot, wholly owned boutique on Madison Avenue that will feature his two top lines, Kenzo Paris and Kenzo Hommes. Kenzo president Richard Simonin conceded that Kenzo has had an imprecise image in North America.
“He’s considered more a sportswear designer than a createur. We’ve had trouble positioning ourselves. People just wouldn’t put Kenzo in the foreign designer sections,” he said.
The house said it chose Bonaventure Group as its licensee because it wanted a partner with tested manufacturing sources in Asia, a solid relationship with U.S. department stores, and “the ability to adapt Kenzo to the U.S. market without losing his genius.”
Simonin said he expects Kenzo Studio to retail in 30 U.S. doors by the end of the first season, and in 150 to 200 within three years. Although his U.S. business is minimal, Kenzo’s house is one of Paris’s bigger success stories. Last year, Kenzo broke the one-billion-franc barrier ($196 million at current exchange rates), posting double-digit sales growth. Fashion revenues reached $127 million, and fragrances topped $69 million. And Kenzo, 55, has no regrets about selling his house to LVMH in a deal of around $100 million.
“I’ve had more time to take care of the collections now — to really care for our product, and to concentrate on all our lines,” he said. “The house had simply grown too big. And I’m not a businessman.”
His commercial accomplishments and his success in maintaining control over his collections and licenses have made Kenzo a model for many young designers in Paris.
“I’d be delighted to think that was the case,” he said. “Maybe it’s because we have a very good team here, and because I stayed true to myself. I’m different from the other Japanese designers. I’ve been in Paris for 30 years, so what I do is actually pretty Western.”

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