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PARIS When Felipe Oliveira Baptista came up with the idea of a collaboration between Kenzo and Kansai Yamamoto, he could not have predicted that the legendary Japanese designers would pass away within months of each other.

Kenzo Takada, who founded Kenzo and continued to support the label after he sold it to luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, died in October just days after Baptista showed his spring collection for the house. Yamamoto, who rose to fame when he dressed David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, passed away in July at age 76.

Baptista thought of the link-up shortly after joining Kenzo as creative director in July 2019. That’s when he met Takada, followed by Yamamoto in August of last year, obtaining their blessing for the project.

“Although their body of work is very distinctive, the connections and links between the two are multiple,” he said in a statement, noting they were the first two Japanese designers to arrive in Europe: Takada in Paris in the late Sixties, and Yamamoto in London in the early Seventies.

Takada pioneered an approach to fashion with his exuberant catwalk shows, featuring dancing models and even animals on stage. Meanwhile, Yamamoto’s “super shows” combined elements of music, dance, acrobatics and traditional Japanese festivals and other spectacles, and were performed around the world.

“They both revolutionized fashion through their colorful and practical extravaganzas — and in their own distinctive ways, were the pioneers in fusing Eastern and Western cultures,” Baptista noted. “What a delightful idea to start a dialogue between these two pioneers and punks of fashion.”

Felipe Oliveira Baptista

Felipe Oliveira Baptista  Courtesy of Kenzo

The capsule collection, scheduled to launch on Nov. 30 in Kenzo stores and online, homes in on their shared obsession with animals and animal prints. Clothes feature reworked motifs and artworks from Yamamoto’s archives, mixed with prints from the Kenzo archives.

The line consists of 30 women’s wear pieces, 25 men’s wear pieces and 22 accessories, with prices ranging from $125 to $1,270.

The outfits were photographed on a group of Parisian actors, photographers and models who are shown lounging at home, out and about on the streets, and clubbing at night. “We wanted to keep things very real, raw and spontaneous. A true celebration of life,” said Baptista.

Throughout his career, Yamamoto collaborated with various brands. In recent years his most high-profile project was his work with Louis Vuitton on a series of kabuki prints for the label’s 2018 resort collection, which was shown in Japan, but he inspired designers as varied as Rick Owens and Marc Jacobs.

Baptista said the Kenzo collaboration was a tribute to the late designers and their talent. “I believe this is probably how both Kenzo and Kansai would have liked to be remembered. Both who dedicated their lives to infuse joy into the world through their work.

“My favorite piece would be a black T-shirt with a Kansai tiger head in the front and on the back, in Japanese calligraphy handwritten by Kansai Yamamoto himself, three lines that read: Kenzo, Kansai, Felipe,” he said.

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