One of the first male students to enrol at Tokyo’s distinguished Bunka Fashion College, Kenzō Takada captured the world’s imagination with his vibrant culture-clashing aesthetic. Taking with him a tenacious and free-spirited approach to design, a young Takada moved to Paris with hopes of becoming a creative player in this elite fashion capital.
Fast-forward to today, the Kenzo label — now led by Felipe Oliveira Baptista — continues to reinvent its founder’s East-meets-West spirit season after season with an empire that spans clothing, furniture design and fragrance.
Follow the incredible journey of the Japanese designer, from ambitious student to founder of the luxury Parisian fashion house.
All images by Kenzo Kids
- 1930s -
1939 - In Himeji, a centuries-old city in the Kansai region of Japan, Kenzō Takada is born to traditional innkeeper parents. Throughout his childhood, Takada develops an early fascination with fashion and design from reading his sister’s magazines.
- 1950s -
1958 - At 18 years old, Kenzō Takada studies literature at the University of Kobe but soon decides to follow his dream. Becoming one of the first male students ever to be enrolled, Takada attends Tokyo’s Bunka Fashion college — although against his father’s wishes, his mother sees a creative talent in her son and champions his newfound aspirations.
- 1960s -
1960 - It's not long before his talent for design is recognised: Kenzō Takada wins the Soen prize awarded to him by the college. The winning design is a white two-piece dress with a vivid blue blouse. Takada soon begins working as a designer for the Sanai department store, making up to forty styles every month.
1965 - After travelling through Hong Kong, Saigon and Mumbai, Takada arrives in a dark and gloomy Paris. Fearing he has made a mistake, it is only when the young designer sees the illuminated Notre Dame cathedral that he decides he's in the right place. Inspired by the colourful tapestry of his travels, and later by the French designer André Courrèges, Takada sketches thirty designs, five of which get picked up by Louis Féraud, designer of the Parisian elite.
- 1970s -
1970 – Kenzō Takada opens his first boutique named ‘Jungle Jap’. With limited financial backing, the hands-on designer renovates the former antique clothing store himself. Inspired by a painting by famous French artist, Henri Rousseau aptly named Le Rêve — meaning ‘the dream’ — Takada paints a mural across the boutique’s walls depicting a labyrinth of plants, flowers and wild animals, which ties in beautifully with his vision.
1971 - Kenzō Takada’s designs appear in American Vogue — however, his statement smock tent dresses, eye-catching oversized dungarees and relaxed shoulder shapes aren't received well by the publication. This does not affect the brand’s success and the designer does not doubt his unique vision.
1976 - Kenzo the brand is born following a successful fashion show in New York and so follows a series of extravagant shows that gain global recognition for their East-meets-West influences, defining a more colourful, pattern-rich design trend.
- 1980s -
1983 - After international recognition for his innovative womenswear collections, Kenzō Takada expands his domain and launches a menswear line. Following this, he then extends his talents to designing children’s clothing, where his playful and energetic designs are translated into a dynamic collection for kids, contributing even further to the brand’s far-reaching success.
1987 - Kenzō Takada takes his free-spirited approach to design and love of colourful prints and applies it to his first homeware collection.
1988 - Taking his brand into a new territory, the designer turns his love of florals into a perfume line with the launch of Kenzo de Kenzo, and later, Parfum d'été, Le monde est beau and L'eau par Kenzo.
- 1990s -
1993 - Ready to take a step back from the fast-paced world of fashion, Kenzō Takada sells his business to French luxury goods company LVMH Group for $80m and soon retires after a fulfilling and impactful 35-year-long career.
- 2000s -
2000 – Parisian designer Gilles Rosier is chosen to take over the role of head designer. Having spent several years at designer Lacoste and travelling the world, Rosier continues the spirit of the Takada’s worldly influences.
2008 - Italian designer Antonio Marras takes the helm as the creative director of the Kenzo ready-to-wear and accessories lines. Sharing the same inspirations as Kenzō Takada, Marras draws influence from his travels and his love of tradition.
2012 - Humberto Leon and Carol Lim become creative directors and head designers of Kenzo, bringing a new energy to the brand. The duo spearhead a series of collaborations with other retailers, starting with the Kenzo x Vans 2012 Summer Collection.
2018 - Kenzo launches La Collection Memento No. 2, with international superstar Britney Spears as the face of the campaign. The nostalgic collection is revealed at New York Fashion Week with the fashion show taking place in the middle of a play specially written for the event – a continuation of the brand’s theatrical reputation for extravagant fashion shows.
2019 - Carol Lim and Humberto Leon decide to leave Kenzo after eight years with the brand to focus on their own endeavours. Their last show for the Spring / Summer 2020 collection is inspired by the spirit of Kenzō Takada’s homeland, Japan, and the surrounding seas.
2020 - Appointed in 2019, Felipe Oliveira Baptista takes over the creative direction of Kenzo, designing a new logo and working to embody the founder’s joyful approach to design and the youthful spirit of the brand itself. Debuting his first collection for the House of Kenzo for Autumn / Winter 2020, Baptista pays homage to Kenzō Takada’s vision and honours what he describes as the brand’s “constant celebration of nature and cultural diversity”.
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