He believed that his background, was an asset in the fashion world. In his Japanese heart, Paris had a special place. He gave people around him a beautiful, sincere smile. Kenzo was a creative man with the soul of an artist who devoted his entire life to fashion. He built an empire that still impresses today with designs characterized by gorgeous, vibrant colors, bold patterns and, above all, great uniqueness.
Table of contents
- Paris legend from Japan
- Unfortunate event key to fulfilling dreams
- Spontaneous decision
- (Un)-strewn with roses
- Building a fashion empire
- Master’s workshop
- A tribute to the motherland
- Versatile visionary
- Great love
- New path
- Honoring artistic possessions
- The world said goodbye to the icon
Paris legend from Japan
Kenzo was born in the Japanese town of Himeji. There he grew up, learned and fell in love with fashion. In an interview, the designer admitted that when he was just a few years old, he flipped through his sister’s fashion magazine. Then he felt that this was his calling. He began to dream of creating his own collections. His parents wanted him to finish his international studies. Kenzo finally agreed to their wishes, but after just a few months he followed his heart and dropped out of university to attend the Fashion College in Tokyo. His first experience in the fashion industry was with a Japanese department store. There he created girls’ clothing, which became very popular.
Unfortunate event key to fulfilling dreams
During preparations for the Tokyo Olympics, the Japanese government decided to demolish the building that housed Kenzo’s apartment. As compensation, he received money to spend on his dream trip to Paris. You can read about the Parisian stores in the article Shopping Trail. He decided to take a boat trip to visit Hong Kong, Saigon, Mumbai and Marseille some more along the way. In each of these places he gained further inspiration – already then a plan was born in his mind to start working on his own collection.
While in Paris, Kenzo went to the market, where he met a woman who offered him to rent space in the Vivienne shopping mall. Takada agreed to the proposal and, accepting the offer, became a designer at the clothing store he opened. He called it Jungle Jap, which stirred up controversy because of past negative perceptions of the Japanese. The designer received a summons by the Japanese-American Civic League through this situation, to stop using the name. Ultimately, however, the case was dismissed.
“You have to live simply and well, use everything you have. That’s the whole philosophy.”
(Un)-strewn with roses
Initially, Kenzo struggled with major financial problems. When he opened his store, he was forced to control his expenses, and a lack of funds limited him as an artist. When he was in the process of preparing for the women’s fashion show of his collection, he could not afford models. With the help of his friends, thanks to whom the organization of the event was successful, and the young designer had a chance to make his debut, which ultimately proved to be a success and a ticket to the world of fashion. The trip to Paris was supposed to take 6 months, but in the end it was 56 years.
Building a fashion empire
When creating his fashion house, Kenzo wanted to combine the essence of the beauty of his homeland along with the aesthetics of the jungle. He was inspired by the works of Henri Rousseau. His first success was when Elle magazine put one of his designs on its cover. Subsequent success in the industry made Takada decide to move his boutique and expand his business. He then expanded his designs to include men’s fashion and later created an iconic perfume line.
“I had the opportunity to work with him for many years, always admiring his curiosity and open-mindedness. At first he seemed quiet and shy, but he was full of humor. He was generous and always knew how to take care of people close to him “- Jonathan Bouchet Manheim, associate designer
Kenzo’s designs delighted with bold colors, diverse patterns and unprecedented forms. The master loved floral and exotic motifs, and drew inspiration from ethnic motifs, working fashion and American pop culture. Kenzo’s collections in particular aroused great sympathy among young people, who were not reached by the then-popular designs of well-known French fashion houses, which were characterized by elegant and classic forms. Takada has given fashion a new and unique meaning. He encouraged self-expression with bold styles, forms and colors that emphasize a person’s character.
A tribute to the motherland
Beloved Japan has always influenced Kenzo’s designs. The designer loved to combine patterns from traditional costumes with modern cuts. Japanese motifs were omnipresent in his work. He repeatedly created paying tribute to his homeland. Each of his designs was deeply thought out, carefully crafted and absolutely unique.
“For me, the most important thing was to create a fashion house that is different from others. I found that my background was my advantage. I was Japanese and that made me different from Parisian tailors. So I opted for Japanese tradition. “
The designer did not limit himself to creating clothes only. He was an artist who loved to shock the world with his ideas, thanks to his unique point of view. His shows were an amazing spectacle, in which the master himself was eager to participate. In one of them, he rode into the arena on an elephant. In addition to fashion, he created lines of furniture and home decor accessories. He created immensely popular iconic perfumes in original flacons. He also painted pictures.
Kenzo valued privacy immensely. For this reason, we know little about his personal life. However, we know about the designer’s great love. It was French architect Xavier de Castella, who helped him design the Japanese-style studio of his dreams. Unfortunately, Takada’s partner died of AIDS at the age of just 38. Plunged into grief after losing both his love and later his business partner to a stroke, Kenzo decided to sell the brand to the LVMH conglomerate for approx. 80 million dollars. The designer admitted in an interview that the untimely passing of his other half will forever remain an unhealed wound for him. After his death, he gave up all stimulants and numerous parties.
After selling his company, Kenzo remained a designer there, but after some time he decided to leave the fashion world due to its commercial demands and frenetic pace. Despite this, he did not give up his greatest love-creating, which still brought him joy. He created a collection of opera costumes, Olympic uniforms and spent a lot of time designing luxury furniture.
Honoring artistic possessions
In 2019. Kenzo has decided to publish a book, a culmination of his work as a designer and artist. It includes his sketches, photographs, letters and diary excerpts. Takada was awarded the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor for his lifetime achievement.
The world said goodbye to the icon
Kenzo died at the age of 81 in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 virus infection. The master remained professionally active until the end of his life and did not give up creating numerous projects and sharing them with the world. After his death, friends, fashion representatives and fans bid farewell not only to a talented designer who changed the face of fashion forever, but also to a wonderful man with a good heart and a sincere smile.
You can read more about the designers in the GentleWoman Fashion Dictionary article.