A LIFE IN PICTURES: Tuesday night’s understated book signing for Kenzo Takada at the Fashion Institute of Technology was just his style.
About 50 guests were invited to the FIT Foundation’s low-key event at the school’s Art & Design gallery. Stateside for a three-day stay, the Paris-based designer planned to return to campus Wednesday afternoon for an informal chat with students. Known for his inclusive approach to fashion that incorporates multicultural influences with exacting techniques, Takada did not wish to judge the students’ designs — to avoid dissuading them in any way.
Undergrads were not among the well-wishers Tuesday night, since alcohol was served. Sipping on a glass of red wine, Takada was surprised to learn that FIT has a museum on campus and asked about what types of exhibitions have been staged there.
The guest of honor was looking forward to seeing the musical “My Fair Lady” on Broadway, before flying out of town. Earlier in the day, Takada dashed into Barneys New York’s Madison Avenue store to try the chicken at its Freds restaurant. En route, he also ducked into the Celine boutique because he is “very curious” about what Hedi Slimane is doing there. One eagle-eyed staffer recognized Takada and asked his assistant to say hello, but generally that is not a common occurrence walking on city streets in New York or Paris.
Devoting more of his energy to staying healthy has been a priority for the past three years, so Takada practices yoga or swims most mornings. “Quiet things,” he smiled, gesturing like a swimmer. “I am very focused on my health.”
Reading books has become more of a just-before-sleep pastime, since Takada prefers to unwind by watching films, especially Japanese and French ones, at home. Tried-and-true American actresses have also captivated his attention over the years. The Japanese designer said, “Two days ago I saw an old movie — ‘Sabrina.’ Ahh, I had forgotten she wore Givenchy — so beautiful,” Takada said, referring to the 1954 movie starring Audrey Hepburn. “I met her once at a party,’ [pretending to greet a diminutive person]. I saw all of her movies — ‘Roman Holiday,’ ‘My Fair Lady,’ ‘Sabrina…’” He also raved about Cecil Beaton’s costume designs for the 1964 film version of “My Fair Lady.”
Another Hepburn — Katharine — did not hold his interest as much in 1940’s “The Philadelphia Story.” He said, “That was very, very hard.” The 1956 musical “High Society” with Grace Kelly was more his speed: “She was beautiful. It was made before her royal wedding in Monaco,” Takada said.
Kelly’s role in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” (1954) also earned high marks from the designer, who said, “She was so elegant. She dressed beautifully. I met her in Rome at the opening of the nightclub Jackie O’ [in 1972]. She was with Princess Caroline and Prince Rainier,” Takada said.
As omnipresent as social media has made celebrities seem, they don’t mingle and socialize publicly as they once did, he said. After arriving in Paris in 1965, the rollicking decade that followed lent itself to unprecedented creativity that no longer exists, he said. Recalling those unconstrained freewheeling times, the designer said there was freedom and fun in the Seventies — and a lot of drugs.