Everything was set up to make the latest Kenzo show, a fashion moment on Friday night on the Seine in Paris. But in the end, it felt more like one huge faux pas.
An ideal location on the charming Passerelle Debilly, a suspension footbridge with perfect views of the Eiffel Tower. A cool crowd of hipsters from football star Jules Koundé to the Fresh Prince of Paris Pharrell Williams. A judiciously chosen soundtrack Heaven and Hell by Magic Mike. And the perfect light – sunset on the Seine.
Then out came the clothes. There wasn’t anything terribly wrong about the co-ed collection, it even had several strong opening ideas – a denim suit with redingote finished with an oversized appliqué fabric petal, a white wool coat with rose emblazoned, or a piped pale blue dandy coat on a lanky guy. But after that it was largely a slow but sure descent into faint mediocrity. For women, banal one-shoulder floral tops and flared pants; for men, floppy acid-dyed denim suits.
There was a telling moment when Kenzo’s designer Nigo sent out a basket weave print suit not dissimilar to several seen last week in Giorgio Armani’s signature men’s show. We are in no way suggesting that Nico was copying, but comparing his clumsy attempt at tailoring to that of a master designer like Armani is like comparing your local builder to Norman Foster.
After that, the collection’s common thread was when in doubt add a logo – on to everything. Judo jackets, varsity jacket, trenches, sloppy T-shirts, hoodies and clutches all covered with Kenzo Paris, or its original address rue Vivienne. Several appallingly redundant logo pyjamas would be ideal for such classy locations as Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club or an after party in a gated community in Baku.
It was as if Nigo never understood that Kenzo Takada voyaged across the planet on an ocean liner; imbued himself in multiple cultures and built a unique brand, a blend of Japanese elegance and French panache and joie de vivre.
LVMH acquired Kenzo three decades ago, while founder Kenzo Takada was still at the helm. After his retirement in 1999 his successors have mostly struggled. Like another LVMH house, Givenchy, the brand has chopped and changed creative directors, with the result that there is a rather confused idea of what exactly Kenzo stands for, or even what is its DNA.
Given the French conglomerate’s remarkable success with the likes of Dior and Louis Vuitton it’s rather hard to comprehend the dissonance. But as someone who attended a good dozen of Takada’s own shows this all felt like a sad interpretation of its founder’s dream.
In a word, Kenzo has drifted into fashion’s equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle.
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