A first look at Nigo’s Kenzo, where clothes are the star of the show

“There were floral patterns that I had never seen before. Great stuff that just didn’t happen again as the brand entered its bigger, let’s say more successful phase. A lot of the early shapes were very experimental in a way that wasn’t happening so much to the brand in the ’80s,” he says. “I found some of these ideas interesting too.”

For its fall 2022 debut, flower prints and some of Takada’s sketches from the 1970s are recreated on clothing and accessories. Other ideas from the Kenzo archives, such as Harris tweed tailoring and shawl and snood collars, are reintroduced, while Nigo’s own obsessions like the Ivy League style and Aka-e pottery appear as motifs. The silhouette is incredibly layered, not just literally, but with references that bridge East-West cultures. Several pieces refer to the structure of a kimono. “The stylist had tied it in a logical way to tie two straps, but for me it was totally wrong. By showing everyone how to do this thing that comes from traditional Japanese clothing at that time, I I was like, ‘Yeah, okay, I’m really Japanese,'” he said with a smile. “I think there aren’t many people who understand what Kenzo means in terms of clothes – that’s what I want to focus on and get people’s attention during my time at the label.”

Nigo in front of the Kenzo workshops in the 2nd arrondissement of Paris

Photographed by Acielle / StyleDuMonde

Here he touches on something that, although some of the intonation has been lost in translation, bears a resemblance to the way the fashion system, and in particular its marketing arm, works now. “The goal for me at Kenzo – but I think in principle it should be everyone’s goal in fashion – is that the main collection that I put most of my creative energy into is this which is, even in business terms, the main engine of the business and the thing people are most interested in,” he says. Not collaborations. Not drops. Not the fanfare or the celebrities or the hype. “We’re entering a period where the primary connection is sort of a background,” he continues, “and it’s only the collaborations that generate interest or sales, which to me seems like be the wrong approach.” This from the man who effectively pioneered fashion collaboration, bringing KAWS and Futura into the fashion world and expanding his own reach into product design and cafes in Japan.

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