It was a swan song with water at its heart and inspiration from Japan’s female free divers, who scour the ocean floor for shellfish and sunken treasures. Carol Lim and Humberto Leon were bidding a poignant farewell after nearly a decade as creative directors, with dancers moving down the darkened catwalk in slow motion to reflect the passage of time, and a performance by Solange, who stepped onto the runway midway through the show, accompanied by a brass orchestra.
There was a lot to take in here, with dancers dressed in Kenzo archive looks dating from 2012 and wearing traditional, wooden Okobo sandals. The moving retrospective, which opened and closed the show, was choreographed by Léo Lerus. Some 5,000 guests attended, including members of the public, fashion students and Kenzo staff.
The show itself tried to capture the lives of the divers — known as Ama — with Neoprene shorts suits in orange, violet or black, and crumpled jersey tops and dresses with a wet look. Fluttery strips of fabric, like little waves, lined the front and back of a navy dress, while halter tops with puff sleeves had a liquid sheen.
One hoodie came with a toile de jouy like design and a big sailing ship, while sailor collars or fishing net panels adorned jackets. Pearls and embellishments — meant to mimic precious bits the mermaids discover on the seabed — glistened from open weave tank tops, trousers or the front of a long, strapless dress.
This farewell should have come as no surprise to those familiar with Lim and Leon, whose shows have long included live bands, dance troupes and traditional Japanese theater, in a nod to the house’s founder, Kenzo Takada.
Over the years, the designers commissioned photographers and filmmakers including Jean-Paul Goude, David LaChapelle, Gregg Araki and Sean Baker to work on their campaign shoots and films.
LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton has so far been mum on its succession plan in order not to taint Leon and Lim’s final show.
But according to sources, Kenzo is zeroing in on a contract with Portuguese designer Felipe Oliveira Baptista, who last year wrapped an eight-year tenure as creative director of Lacoste.