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Kenzo: Modest Defiance

Sunday, 24 May 2009

KenzoTrees are green, all trees are green, we've seen so many green trees that we forgot that the trees can be pink, too, but if the tress were pink, I would show you a green tree. People used to believe that poppies have no smell. The strange flower with high and fleshy stem and scarlet petals that will not endure a touch or caress has no aroma... It used to be true before the emergence of the Flower by Kenzo, the perfume as famous as it is unusual.

The perfume was created by the Japanese designer, who came to Paris in pursuit of happiness and changed the image of the French couture once and forever, totally disregarding the opinion of the establishment. He has banished tucks and offered dolman sleeves to the women. He replaced buttons with zippers and decorated women with flowers which were present as flower prints on the skirts, blouses, coats, blazers and sweaters. He used traditional Japanese designs and patterns, embroidery and special attitude, inherent to all Japanese designers in the fashion world.

Kenzo Takada was born into a large and poor Japanese family, in Hyogo province, in early 1939. As a child, Kenzo loved to sew and paint, but as it often happens, his parents did not understand him. Therefore, the first step towards the career of fashion designer Kenzo made in defiance of the Japanese tradition, against the wishes of his family, in contradiction of the views of the society. Takada fled taking all the money he could find and travelled to Paris, the city of his dreams.

Naturally, he was not welcome in Paris. Kenzo rented a bleak and dreary room somewhere in Montmartre and plunged into deep depression. Dior, Chanel, Cardin - these magical names sounded like magic mantra to the Japanese young man who didn't speak French. They encouraged and promised but never kept their promises. The world of haute couture was beautiful and alluring, sublime and so beyond his reach! It was worth dying for. And Kenzo, on the contrary, wanted to live. He wanted to paint the world with bright colors, watch sakura trees bloom and have lunch in sweet Parisian cafes. His first fashion show organized using his «sweat money» was attended by 50 people who arrogantly smiled on seeing models catwalking in the Japanese cotton kimonos. Indeed, Takada used simple cotton fabric for the show that he bought at the Saint Pierre fabric market at the foot of Monmartre. Yes, he was well aware that in the 70's the whole world was crazy about tailored designs and slender silhouette that accentuated the curves. Yes, he did not care that his show was not covered in the fashion magazines. But a year later the entire Paris was dressed in a «these monstrous kimonos».

The day after the show which was seemingly a disaster and a total flop Jungle Jap Boutique opened - Kenzo waited for the recognition and was ready for it to happen. He understood one thing that still remains a secret for many people in fashion - the youth is always leading the way. It gets through the thick net of stereotypes and prejudice, it crushes the establishment and calls for the revolution. It needs freedom! It goes beyond clean cut, strict rules and those inhuman tucks!

After a short consideration, frightened and alarmed fashion purists decided to recognize that strange Japanese designer on the surge of his popularity, but thought introducing him to the haute couture hall of fame would be absolutely unacceptable. Kenzo style was a little distanced from the traditional fashion and called the «new deconstructionism» (Couture Destructuree). Meanwhile, Kenzo created trends jolingly. In 1977, Kenzo Takada presented his new collection which opened with a wide long jacket that shocked the audience and became a hit within a few hours and remained such for several years. But the next year the designer could help himself and showed short jacket with wide short trousers. Remember a sweater dress? And a mini-coat?

He presented five collections a year, and his popularity grew with every show. «Most European of the Japanese» has become one of the first designers who have turned their shows into fascinating performances. Just remember the 1981 show when Kenzo has covered Place Victoire with fabric and decorated it with golden powder!

In 1983, Kenzo, now a major barnd, started a men's line and to mark a new direction, the designer made a move towards America and opened his first boutique in New York. In the following years, he launched several new fashion lines, including Kenzo Jeans, Kenzo Junior, Kenzo Bed Linen, Kenzo Enfant, Kenzo Bebe, and Kenzo City ... Fashion has become a business, but a nice one.

In 1988 his first perfume line was launched. The first scent had a simple but elegant name, KENZO. Three years later, another perfume was presented, Kenzo pour Homme followed by Parfum d`ete, Kashaya de Kenzo, l`Eau par Kenzo, Kenzo Jungle, Air, Flower by Kenzo, and Kenzo Amour...

And then, in October 1999, he retired. He presented his last pret-a-porter collection for spring-summer 2000, followed by an impressive selection of his designs summing up three decades of his work. He said he needed rest.

However, the brand is prospering without its creator. Since 1993 the Kenzo brand belongs to LVMH Inc., and the Board invites the designers and approves their collections. Today Kenzo brand is an epitome of classics which is to be admired and imitated. The spirit of the short Japanese man and a big talent Kenzo Takada still reigns in his House. Everything that is happening there bears the mark of Kenzo's unique style. The Kenzo House is an isle of Japan in the middle of Paris.

Natalya Rudenko

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