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In His Own Words: Felipe Oliveira Baptista Celebrates Kenzo Takada, The Genius Who Conquered Paris

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“Kenzo stood for freedom, joy, diversity, love of nature and creating harmony out of contrasts,” writes Baptista.

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Among the great names that the global pandemic took away last year was Kenzo Takada, the genius who conquered—and fell in love with—Paris. Described by The New York Times as being responsible for bringing Japanese fashion to the world, Takada died at 81 years old, having lived a long life filled with bold design.

He inspired many, not the least of whom is Felipe Oliveira Baptista, the Portugese designer who joined Kenzo as creative director two years ago. Ahead of the global release of #KenzoAlways FW21 Film a few days ago, Baptista released a message that celebrated the Japanese master’s genius.

Kenzo Takada passed away on October the 4th 2020. The news was abrupt, sudden and unexpected. Immediately the internet was inundated with tributes, messages, photos and videos of Kenzo himself, his work and life.

Our acquaintance was brief, nevertheless it felt like I lost someone close to me. The following Monday I was back at work, still numb from the recent shock. Time to start working on the next collection.

Where to start? How to transform the grieving into something positive, joyful, free? I knew only one thing. I did not want it to be a tribute, but rather a celebration. A celebration of the man, his work and incredible vision.

Something new

Nothing new could come out of just a polite and reverential look back at Kenzo’s amazing legacy. Space must be allowed for intuition, instinct, surprises, and accidents. Nothing new can be achieved without these.

I have started by watching all of the (recently restored) videos of Kenzo’s shows from 1978 until 1985. Although I already knew all the clothes and collections from the archives, photos, drawings, magazines. To see all these great garments in movement opened a new perspective into Kenzo’s world. Suddenly his vocabulary gained a whole new palette of colors. Here, models strolled and wondered in a state of vibrant jubilation, grace and cheekiness.

Everything seemed so organic and effortless, sensual and emotional. In a way, very much the contrary of what so much of fashion has become: formulated, safe and predictable. We selected a few pieces from the archives of Kenzo and my own. Then started a long process of trying the clothes on, photographing and studying them in movement.

Collage, cut, paste, erase, draw, turn them inside out, then upside down, dissect them, pull them apart, and back together again. Sketch books were filled with collages, drawings and pictures of possibilities. Possibilities of a new narrative, a new collection, a new silhouette, new clothes, new functionalities, new sensualities. Possibilities of a new world. A world without borders, prejudices, and stereotypes.

Colorful feast

Kenzo stood for freedom, joy, diversity, love of nature and creating harmony out of contrasts. I wanted color and print to reflect all of this. An offering to Kenzo of all things he cherished. Landscapes, hortensias, birds, chains, roses, stripes, pansies, tulips and cocktail glasses… all mixed together in an imaginary colorful feast.

Although confined in Paris, between home and work, we travelled in our minds, creativity as a form of antidote to our current situation. Creation as our new elixir. Going places, always. The magic and beauty of travel, a tribute to nomad peoples and minds.

The fearless, optimistic and independent wanderers of the world. They run, dance and celebrate in their lush textile armors. The joy and thrill of arriving somewhere new, unexpected and untouched. A visceral yearning for life. A visceral lust for freedom.

Kenzo Takada Always.

For more on Kenzo and their new line, visit Kenzo.com.

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