BRUGES UNDER SNOW - Kenzine, the Kenzo official blog

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This week we're battening down the hatches in preparation for the new wave of Cali to hit our Spring/Summer 2014 runway show on Sunday. And down below in our studio, riding over the pre-show chaos, is - on repeat - the brand new album from the epitome of 90s Californian effortless cool - Mazzy Star. 

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It's been seventeen years since their last album, 1996's "Among My Swan", and this new album is a collection of songs recorded over the years since then. It has a lot of the psychedelic blues and slide-guitar sound that made 1990's "She Hangs Brightly" so fun, with a little bit of the heartbreaking organ from "Among My Swan", with a new, surprisingly polished sound. The album's new single "California", and really the entire album, plays like an homage to our and Mazzy Star's home state of California; we can feel that chilly, salty breeze coming over the hill from the Pacific, giving us shivers in the hot desert sun the way only LA and Mazzy Star can.

Grace's new memoir is the story of a legend who has been both the high-profile model and the creative eye behind the editorial. She has worked with every legendary fashion photographer of the past fifty years, and has no shortage of juicy anecdotes about her work and affairs. 

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She also includes numerous drawings of her daily life that really illustrate her world and add to the magic of her stories! (Did you see the drawing she gave to a totally enamored Jimmy Fallon on his show?) The book gives us her unequivocal insight into the world of fashion, but Grace's life is also an incredibly interesting story, told both passionately and poignantly matter-of-fact.


"Grace, A Memoir" by Grace Coddington, Random House.

On our day off in Tokyo we made our way to Ueno in order to check out a hot tip from our friend Olympia Le-Tan: the Tokyo National Museum. Okay, so it's not exactly hidden, but somehow, among the endless shopping malls and towers and parks in Tokyo it had evaded our radar on all of our trips there so far. So with the promise of ancient Japanese art and real samurai armor to be found, Tokyo National Museum found its way to the top of our To Do lists.

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And as we quickly found out, we'd really been missing out. The museum has been in Ueno Park since 1882 and holds an amazing collection of every kind of historical Japanese artifact imaginable. The museum takes you through Japanese history, starting with 12,000 year old pottery and then into the early common era with the adorable Haniwa terra-cotta statues used in burial rituals.


But perhaps most impressive, and what we were most excited to see, was the collection of genuine samurai armor, all of which was in nearly perfect condition. The sheer size and complicated designs of these armored outfits, from the metal and woven steel in the protective plates to the enormous and often dragon-adorned helmets, to the various ropes and tassels and carvings holding it all together, makes these a seriously awesome sight. Don't overlook this site on your next Tokyo trip!

 

The museum then gets expansive with its collection of artifacts from the 10th to the 19th century. There is a massive collection of hilarious Koh and Kabuki theater masks of people and animals, countless watercolor paintings on scrolls and folding screens, and beautifully painted dishes, hand mirrors, fans and boxes. The enormous collection of kimonos with intricate and often strikingly modern patterns is one of the many impressive and inspiring parts of the museum.

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As we worked on the Spring Summer 2013 collections, the jungle was our main inspiration. We went on a trip to rural Thailand to find the essence of the jungle, but we also tried to find this idea in our everyday lives in Paris. This started us on our quest to find the jungles of the city - the places where we could find that bit of nature and wildness on our lunch breaks - and we found so many amazing and inspirational jungles within our own stomping grounds. The next one on our lists is the National Library of France!

 

 

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France's national library's main buildings are four book-like L-shaped high-rises that are so explicitly modern you would never expect to find a jungle in the middle. But between the four rises and their extensive series of hallways, atriums and balconies, is an outdoor botanical garden so full of gigantic trees and pathways you could almost get lost in it, if it weren't for the high-rises ever visible in the background. The best part is that you can see the jungle from almost anywhere in the building, making your book-browsing all the more exciting and all the more relaxing. It's the perfect place to read the Jungle Book! They also have a rotating exhibition hall that is currently displaying "100 Masterpieces of Photography" (until February 17), with works by everyone from Edgar Degas to Man Ray to Diane Arbus. What better time to check out this Parisian jungle?


BNF, 11 Quai François Mauriac 75013 Paris

Naoshima, a small island on the north side of Shikoku, Japan, has become, since the late 1980s, a little publicized modern art wonderland hidden among the many thousands of islands of Japan. In a whirlwind trip including four trains, a bus and a ferry, we made our way from Tokyo to a fog-enveloped Naoshima in just under seven hours, just in time to see the sunset from our room at the Benesse House. The Benesse House is a beautiful melding of hotel, modern art and architecture museum, and outdoor seaside park. The three museums inside the Benesse House complex are amazingly curated with no shortage of pieces by big-name artists like Jasper Johns, David Hockney, Robert Rauschenberg, Donald Judd, Gerhard Richter, and an entire Lee Ufan museum, which would have been enough of a reason to make the trek all the way to Naoshima from Paris in itself. But perhaps even more amazing are the outdoor sculptures and art pieces, like the enormous Yayoi Kusama polka-dotted pumpkins on the pier in the bay, or Hiroshi Sugimo's landscape photograph perfectly framed on the side of an island cliff, that add to the quiet profundity and mystique of this magical island.

 

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Aside from the Benesse House museum and the Lee Ufan museum, also inside the Benesse House's large complex is the Chichu Art Museum built into the ground by architect Tadao Ando, built so as not to disrupt the landscape. This museum includes an incredible room dedicated to Claude Monet's Water Lilies, where natural light seeps into the underground room through a hidden hole in the ceiling and is then reflected around the perfectly white walls and white stone floor as the only source of illumination with which to view Monet's massive paintings. Another room was turned into an amazing geometric art space by Walter De Maria, with a giant marble in the middle of a staircase surrounded by golden wooden columns, again with only natural light coming through the ceiling. James Turrell has three pieces installed in this museum as well, with his playful yet indescribably mind-boggling interactive explorations of light.

The island's town is a quick bus or bike ride away from the museums, and has many traditional Japanese houses, temples and Shinto shrines left intact or restored from the Edo period. And of course, in true Naoshima-style, some of these old buildings have been restored into miniature art spaces themselves, as part of Naoshima's Art House Project, combining art spaces with historical Japanese cultural sites. Inside some of the houses are pieces by artists including James Turrell, Tatsuo Miyajima, and Yoshihiro Suda, often built into the house as if it had been there all along, surrounded by tatami mats and old wooden bathtubs.
 

With only one night to spend in Naoshima our trip in December was a bit of a rush. It would be so easy to spend days and days taking in all the scenery, art and ancient Japanese magic to be seen and felt and experienced in Naoshima. But on our way to the ferry, we did manage to find 45 minutes to stop and relax at the sento bathhouse, "I♥湯" [I love hot water bath], after walking through the town and the Art House Project. Everything in the bathhouse, from the bathtub to the toilet to the tiles, was designed by artist Shinro Ohtake and offers yet another way to experience the art of Naoshima, and is yet another testament to the ingenious way the worlds of modern art and ancient and modern Japan have been seamlessly woven together on this peaceful little ten-square kilometer island in the pacific ocean.

It's Hiroshi Sugimo's "Time Exposed", a photograph hung on the side of the cliff!

Humberto inside of Shinro Ohtake's "Shipyard Works: Stern with Hole".

The view from the hilltop.

Heading from the shrine into town.

At the sento bathhouse "I♥湯".

The bathhouse even has a builtin greenhouse!

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They say it only snows a couple of times a year in Bruges. Well then by some amazing luck, we ended up in Bruges for a weekend in the middle of a snowstorm that covered this sleepy city on Belgium's North Sea coast in almost half a meter of snow. We had come for a sight of the grand architecture that inspired Walt Disney's famous castles and for a taste of the quiet this once bustling port has gracefully mellowed into. Bruges is often called "the Venice of the North" because of its elaborate series of canals that surround the city and intersect its neighborhoods, but because of the snow, there wasn't much canal to see - they were all frozen over and covered in so much snow they were unrecognizable from the streets. But in the snow the town's many still-standing medieval castles, clock towers, convents and churches were all transformed into a winter wonderland.

 

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We arrived late in the evening from a similarly snow-covered Paris on Saturday to already a few centimeters of snow on the ground and more lightly falling. We hiked through the empty streets to a traditional Belgian brasserie where we had a great northern european dinner of local curried mussels and grilled venison, a perfect winter meal. By the morning the snow and wind was going in full force and it was getting seriously cold. But we knew it was the perfect weather to view this city in, so we wasted no time in getting seriously bundled up and heading out to see the city sites buried in snow.

 

Our first stop was the Béguinage, the medieval convent, and continued our tour on foot around the city, walking through many of the gorgeous churches and their grounds, and through the Market, the main plaza where all the enormous government buildings still stand. For lunch we pleasantly surprised to find Tanuki, an impressively authentic Japanese restaurant where we ate some fresh sushi and some Norwegian cod from the Baltic Sea cooked on the large teppan-yaki grill.

With it's great and varied food options (i.e. amazing chocolate and beer!), it's beautiful castles, churches and cobblestones, and it's peaceful atmosphere, even in the normal gray winters, Bruges is definitely a place we'd love to visit again. We were beyond lucky to get to visit for the first time in the beautiful snow; we seriously felt like we were in a winter wonderland. But we hear it's incredible in the summer too; you can actually get on the boats! See you this summer, Bruges!
 

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