When Felipe Oliveira Baptista joined Kenzo in the summer of 2019, its founder confided in him: “Fashion seems so complicated now. I couldn’t do it.” To Kenzō Takada, who sold his house to LVMH in 1993, fashion had to come from the heart rather than the market department. “Intuition is a banned word at fashion houses these days. It’s as if there’s no space for it. But there was a lot of that in him,” Oliveira Baptista said on a video call from Paris this week, reflecting on the legacy of Takada, who died in October last year aged 81. The sentiment would lay the foundation for the Portuguese designer’s new era at Kenzo: “It was the best piece of advice.”
Sticking to those values, the collection Oliveira Baptista dedicated to Takada this season didn’t reissue a single garment or print from the master’s greatest hits of the 1970s and ’80s. Instead, the new custodian paid tribute by evoking the founder’s presence through intuitive ideas. Silhouettes riffed on Takada’s most memorable moments through the spherical and orbital, the folkloric, and the cross-cultural. Balancing, as he does, the artisanal with the durable and sporty, Oliveira Baptista simplified and contemporized materials, turning Takada’s geometric lines into a kind of streetwear for a 21st-century Kenzo.
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