Kenzo Takada - Tracing The Career of The Revered Japanese Designer

Kenzo Takada, founder of the legendary Japanese label, Kenzo was born on this day in 1939.⁣

Originating from the Japanese city of Himeji, Kenzo developed an early interest in fashion from reading his sisters’ magazines.⁣ In 1964, he set off to Paris by boat seeking to achieve what none of his contemporaries had done before - to introduce the nuanced beauty of Japanese design to the western world. ⁣

He opened his first flagship store in the fashion capital in 1970, some 11 years before Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto had secured their debut shows in Paris. The store, located in Le Galerie Vivienne in Paris’ 2nd arrondissement was called “Jungle Jap.” It was bright and embodied the abstract and optimistic nature of Kenzo’s unique designs.

Kenzo in his Jungle Jap store, c.1970's.

Just a year later, his 1971 show was overwhelmed by hoards of fans when over 3000 people turned up, forcing the show to end abruptly half-way through as there was no longer any room for the models to move.⁣

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Later, for Autumn Winter 78-79, he displayed his trademark sense of showmanship and playfulness to full effect with a runway show that took place in a circus tent and featured performers wearing transparent uniforms. Kenzo himself famously appeared for the finale riding an elephant. ⁣

By the end of the 70’s Kenzo was the highest selling brand worldwide, making him the first Japanese designer to become a household name. This international success continued for some 20 years until he retired in 1999. The brand was sold to the LVMH group in 1993 and has since become a mainstay atop the fashion pile, with shows held biannually in Paris. 2020 marks the brand’s 50th anniversary.⁣

[ Click the items below to shop some of qurated's Kenzo archive ]