Kenzo, a simple name which stands for a vast, eclectic world of colours, cultures and styles, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. It would be difficult to sum up this maison in just a few words so to truly understand what Kenzo is about, we must go back to 1970 when Kenzo Takada established his brand in Paris. At that time, Takada infused traditional couture with freshness and spontaneity, sparking an illustrious career that continued for 30 years. Those who are not familiar with the brand may assume that Kenzo is Japanese, but those in-the-know understand that Kenzo is, in fact, a very French brand, that has maintained a spot at the forefront of the fashion world, even after Takada's retirement in 1999.
The stepping down of the great man meant great changes for Kenzo. In 2008, the appointment of Antonio Marras, from Alghero in Sardinia, to the role of overall artistic director, would have a great effect on the brand's products. Marras, whose origins from a coastal town perhaps represent a point of similarity with Takada and his Japanese roots, succeeded in instilling new life into the brand Kenzo, while remaining true to its identity.
The Pagodon handbag is a great example of Kenzo's cultural eclecticism and nomadic romanticism, features that have blossomed under Marras' direction. Originally launched in 1998, the iconic bag includes some fascinating details. Shaped like the traditional harvesting basket used in Southeast Asia, the handbag is closed using a small rope, and its top handle looks like a Japanese teapot handle, tightly wrapped in leather strips.
For Kenzo's 40th anniversary, Marras has transformed the Pagodon into a precious objet d'art with a special "40th Birthday" collection. It features a stunning range of styles: black quilted leather with a velvet black camellia, zebra print with red pom poms, bright fuchsia leather with sequins and beads, with dark feathers and a decorative brooch, and other original combinations.
This year, the Pagodon "40th Birthday" exhibition has been presenting the entire collection of handbags in various locations around the world. After touring the Middle East earlier this year, the "40th Birthday" Exhibition went on to Tokyo, Osaka, Bangkok and Seoul. This winter, it will be at Beijing’s China World boutique until January 15; in Macau’s One Central store during Chinese New Year; and then in Shanghai’s Plaza 66 shop until the end of February. Not only can guests admire the one-off collection on tour, the Pagodons can also be purchased. Not just beautiful to look at, the Pagodon is a truly collectible item that marks a new era for Kenzo.
The unique design of this Pagodon collection is a wonderful expression of Marras' creativity, constantly fuelled by his globetrotting experience. For Kenzo's Spring/Summer 2011 womenswear collection, Marras reflected on the relationships between his homeland, Sardinia, and Japan. Both islands are surrounded by the sea; and in both, the people are fascinated by nature. Marras has succeeded in transposing these characteristics into a carefree and romantic collection ideal that appeals to a modern woman who appreciates authentic style. Fabrics are light and airy, with interesting textures; colours are vibrant yet harmonious, like an ancient Japanese water painting; and the craftsmanship is rich in details, with embroidery, tapestry, patterns, symbols and even encrusted stones.
Filling his travel journal with pages and pages of notes and sketches, Marras acquired the raw material that provided the inspiration for the Men’s Spring/Summer 2011 collection. During a visit to a small island between Hiroshima and Miyajima, he envisaged an adaptable, urban outfit. Sombre colours mixed with intense ones, natural materials mixed with innovative fibres, patchworks and hand-dyed fabrics offer the gentleman endless mix-and-match combinations.
The name "Kenzo" evokes a modern style hallmarked by originality. The brand has come a long way since Mr. Takada founded it 40 years ago, and today its ready-to-wear collections for men and women are a celebration of visual narrative. Running through every collection is a thread of genuine identity, a thread of reverence for nature, freedom and travel. There is no doubt that Antonio Marras will continue travelling, and that his journals, whether from Paris to Japan, or from Japan to Sardinia, will continue to serve as a source of ever-new themes...