Kenzo Takada, the founder of Kenzo and fashion designer, died on Sunday due to complications caused by COVID-19. He spent his last days in Paris, where he arrived from Japan in 1964. He was 81.
“It is with great sadness that I have learned the passing away of Mr Kenzo Takada,” wrote Felipe Oliveira Baptista, the art director of Kenzo, on Twitter. “His amazing energy, kindness, and talent were contagious. His kindred spirit will live forever. Rest in peace Master.” The house also released a statement on Instagram following the news that read: “For half a century, Mr Takada has been an emblematic personality in the fashion industry — always infusing creativity and colour into the world. Today, his optimism, zest for life, and generosity continue to be pillars of our Maison. He will be greatly missed and always remembered.”
Takada, known by most simply as Kenzo, was one of the first designers to bring Japanese fashion to Paris — and then the world — thus paving the way for others like Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo, and more. Known for his use of bright, vibrant colours and mixed-and-matched materials, patterns, and techniques inspired by his travels around the world, Takada created fashion that was meant to be enjoyed by everyone, not just the fashion elite. “Fashion is not for the few — it is for all the people,” he famously told The New York Times in the early ‘70s.
Takada launched his namesake brand Kenzo in 1970, which he sold out of his own boutique called Jungle Jap. He showed his first collection just one year later in 1971, in New York and Japan, and opened his first flagship store in Paris’s Place des Victoires in 1976. In 1993, he sold Kenzo — which, by then, also included a major perfume empire — to fashion conglomerate LVMH, which currently owns Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Celine, Fenty, Givenchy, and Christian Dior, among other legacy houses. Six years later, in 1999, he retired from fashion to pursue a career in art. For the last 21 years, he’s remained in Paris. According to a statement, at the time of his death, he was being treated at the American hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris.
Of his passing, Vanessa Friedman, fashion director at The New York Times, tweeted: “At a time when everything can seem very dark, it’s worth remembering the legacy of Kenzo Takada, the great designer who died today of Covid, and who believed in joy.” Another fashion insider Pierre A. M’Pele, or Pam Boy, said Takada was “a creative force that brought newness and excitement to Paris in the 1970s,” on Twitter. “RIP Kenzo Takada.” The Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, which operates Paris Fashion Week, released this statement on Twitter: “Kenzo Takada will remain forever associated with the history of the Federation. With its inventive cuts, multicultural inspirations, and exotic prints, he has undeniably contributed to writing a new page in Fashion.”
Takada’s legacy lives on at Kenzo under the leadership of Baptista, who presented the brand’s spring ‘21 collection to a small, socially distant crowd just one day before its founder’s passing during Paris Fashion Week. Watch the bee-inspired show below.
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