These are tough times for the travel industry. With the coronavirus outbreak severely curtailing air traffic, many people are opting to stay at home. Suddenly, even the trusty student ritual of backpacking across the planet is looking less alluring.
Not so for Felipe Oliveira Baptista, whose father was a pilot and who, as a result, has travel in his DNA. His debut coed collection for Kenzo was all about wanderlust — though the concept of shelter came hand-in-hand.
Cloaks, capes, cowls and caps shielded his models from the bright sunlight raising temperatures inside the plastic tubular tent set up in the garden of the National Institute for Deaf Children. The venue felt like an apt metaphor for conflicting urges: wanting to be out in the world, yet protected from its dangers.
The designer conceived the collection like a dialogue between himself and founder Kenzo Takada, who revolutionized French fashion in the early Seventies with his colorful, unrestrictive clothes and came to show his support.
Baptista channeled that spirit with flowing capes 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. An army green, full-body cocoon, shaped with drawstrings, swathed the body like a sleeping bag.
Working an Eighties sportswear sensibility, Baptista layered somber tonal looks with protective details: blankets worn under hats, utility belt bags and flyaway neckties. He used zips to release the volume on fluted skirts or to play with the hemline of a patterned parka.
“I’ve always been very interested in the utilitarian — things that are functional and aesthetic at the same time,” he said in a preview.
It was a marked shift from the colorful, Nineties-inspired designs that defined the LVMH-owned brand during Humberto Leon and Carol Lim’s eight-year tenure, moving tiger sweatshirts by the truckload. Baptista acknowledged the importance of the house’s emblem, which featured in a new, streamlined version on the show invite.
But he’s ready to move on, and hopes his aesthetic U-turn will widen the audience for the brand. “I think there’s something very nice about being democratic in age,” he said. “I do think that youthfulness is not just targeted to the very young, I think youthfulness is a state of mind as well.” In other words: Have poncho, will travel.