WHAT SUSIE HAS TO SAY ABOUT OUR SHOW... - Kenzine, the Kenzo official blog

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KENZO’s spiritual home has always been somewhere in the wide open world.  It’s why Kenzo Takada named his shop in Galerie Vivienne ‘Jungle Jap’.  Carol Lim and Humberto Leon have taken KENZO on a journey that goes far beyond the archives but today, it felt like we were back in the wild.  Inside a cavernous warehouse space on the edge of North East Paris, our eyes were drawn to the green and blue (a classic KENZO colour combo) striped background.  

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As the lights dimmed it was as if the space was playing tricks on us as it appeared that the backdrop was moving towards us, shrinking the space.  It suddenly split into seven WiFi controlled holographic blocks and they began to move in unison to reveal Saint Etienne, performing especially composed tracks ‘You Don’t Own Me’ and ‘After the Rain’.  Lim and Leon as well as traversing back to KENZO’s past also dipped into their own nostalgia as they were both fans of their debut 1991 album ‘Foxbase Alpha’.

 

As the moving blocks began its assault course around the runway, Issa Lish opened the show as a lone caped and hooded figure with a splay of white lighting up her eyes.  That first look set the tone for a collection that cocooned and blanketed us with warmth-inducing layers in forest greens, burgundies and yellows.  We were enveloped in the cosiest of capes, blanket coats and shearlings bundled up with raw-edged knits.  They often came with embellished hoods or wool caps with attached scarves that resembled a form of armor. 

 

This particular KENZO tribe strode forward in python platform Chelsea boots and carried nomadic cross body rucksacks. Like the deepening of a forest, the embellishment became dense with boucle embroidery, beaded flowers, fil coupe and stripes created by fringing.  Dissected rays and waves together with nocturnal floral prints harked back to KENZO’s florid printed past.  Under Lim and Leon’s these tried and tested motifs were even more abstracted.  Stripes were deliberately distorted and interrupted.  Florals were muted and darkened like new takes on the camouflage print.  

These rich protective cacophonies and the way the models were wrapped up, recalled the photographer Hans Feurer and his collaborative work with Takada in the 1980s when he took girls into far-flung places to shoot them in KENZO - their beauty enhanced by their surroundings.  It felt like Lim and Leon took us back to this spirit as this collection once again connected the KENZO woman today with nature.

 

As the models came striding out in a square formation, the holographic blocks were dancing their own magical choreography and throwing mesmerising tiny shards of reflections all around the set.  These abstracted “trees” seemed to represent some kind of mystical spirit of the forest and its plantation.  You thought of films like Avatar or to throw out an indulgently childish reference -  Pocahontas.  So, ‘can you paint with all the colours of the wind’?  Yes you can with the help of KENZO’s eclectic melange that we witnessed today.   

As we stepped inside the skate park in a far out northern suburb of Paris, it was all too easy to think that Carol Lim and Humberto Leon would be defaulting to sub-culture and go hard on skate. Instead, the skate park with its undulating concrete waves and steps provided the perfect blank canvas for huge LED screens to be erected. 

 

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On the screens, with a background of gradiated neon colours we saw a curious face tilting her head towards us, as she spoke.  “Welcome to Kenzo SS15.  KENZO would like to remind you there is no planet B. Please protect what is precious.”  Her name was Knola (all-knowing, all seeing?) and she is a real person despite the avatar appearance. Somewhere backstage, someone mysterious was making all of those facial expressions and movements come to life.  She’s quintilingual and a global citizen, and as her voice vaulted from English to Chinese to Japanese to French to Arabic, we realised it mirrored the way we live our 21st century lives today, traveling from one place to another in what feels like a much smaller world.  It also reflected how Lim and Leon are themselves global citizens, splitting their work between New York and Paris, traveling to other cities in between for KENZO and Opening Ceremony and now both with kids, their thoughts turned to the future - a positive one at that.  “We were really into this optimism for the future,” said Leon after the show.  “It's a future that's very close to us, not a space age future.  We wanted to think about what that meant.  We're definitely embracing technology and looking what is our vision for the future - cleanliness, purity, the right energy and about being responsible.”  Carol further pondered: "How do we play our part in this?”

For Lim and Leon’s part, they decided to imbue KENZO SS15 collection with a free-your-mind attitude as they looked towards the future.  We whizzed through flashes of New York, Tokyo, a Californian wave and sunsets on the screens accompanied by Disclosure’s special soundtrack mix, which included the breakout track White Noise.  How would Knola dress?  She might be KENZO’s avatar but she’s also an appropriate vision for humanity in the future as we speed towards a world where physical boundaries, ethnic background and language barriers become irrelevant.  We might all be like Knolas in the future.

 

Every silhouette swooshed and moved as the Knolas of our times get kitted out in giant skate trousers and giant zip-up jackets.  She’s not a skater girl as we know her. Aerated mesh and geometric lace in the brightest of whites were cut into elongated shirts and trumpet skirts, mimicking air streams in the sky. Technical knits and pinstriping drew lines on the body in relaxed athletic-inspired silhouettes.  There was a chill-down raver vibe when we saw the looks were accessorised with organic moulded leather kitten heels and pool slides with naturalistic cut-outs, rubber handled net bags and sci-fi cyborg sunglasses. Optimistic abstract prints in pastel pinks and blues, highlighted the euphoric element in the collection.  They emerged on oversized shirts and wide and loose trousers with side splits and mesh vests and swinging skirts.  The final effect as models took their positions next to the Knola on the screen was an uplifting vision for the future.  Machine, hand-made craftsmanship (as seen in the fabrics) and freedom in what we do or wear, standing side by side in solidarity.

On the screens, in between flashes of cityscapes, you could also see the movement of machinery.  We’ve been conditioned in the last century to fear dystopian futures where machines take over our lives.  But what if it doesn’t have to be this way?  Lim and Leon are enthusiastic embracers of technology and they expressed that solidly with this collection and show set-up.  It’s a refreshing change up from the usual doom and gloom about what dark places social media and technology are taking us.  They’re looking forward, not by dwelling on the past but reacting to what’s going on around them. 

One of our favourite fashion blogger - Susie Bubble - was at La Cité du Cinéma yesterday for our Spring/Summer collection and we give you her very sharp point of view of the show.

 

"If previous Kenzo women's collections by Humberto Leon and Carol Lim were rooted in Kenzo Takada’s past, then Spring/Summer 2013 was about looking to their own roots, specifically in California, where they both hail from.  The ocean has been mined to death in fashion as a recurring inspiration theme but Leon and Lim, looked at the vast magnitude of the Pacific Ocean and its life giving abilities to transform a far flung La Cité du Cinéma in the suburbs of Paris into a pulsating and dramatic interpretation of being under the sea.   Hundreds of speakers filled with water and lit up in blue and white lined the runway ominously.  Then they started thumping with a bassline created by Paris-based band The Aikiu.  If we any of us in the audience were vaguely bleary eyed then the soundtrack was sure to jolt you back to life. 

 

 

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Far off into the distance behind an impressive veil of water tumbling down like a waterfall or as though you might have been down under the sea, one by one the models would emerge.  Not as mermaids or other cliched diaphanous sea creatures that often appear when designers mine the sea as a source of inspiration but as women, who have soaked up California beach culture and managed to traverse between looking laid back and pulled together.  That was down to Lim and Leon opting for sharp tailoring.  Quite literally it’s “smart casual” summed up in ensembles that ranged from cropped trousers and jackets blocked with black, to laser cut leather jackets with the open backed vents of a sleeveless tank to shorts and skirts with zippers that flower into slips.  Waved edged crop tops were the more literal nod of waves of the sea but wet look fabrics that looked like they were glistening in water were a far more subtle nod to the ocean’s might.  Everything had a swift ease about it that was to put into a neat nutshell, Cali-Kool.  Or is it Kali-Cool?

 

 

There was of course a point to looking to the ocean as Kenzo have partnered up with marine conservation charity The Blue Marine Foundation with a line of men’s and women’s sweaters and t-shirts to financially assist the foundation.  The cause was echoed in the collection as the logo-ed sweatshirt that we’re so used to seeing at Kenzo was replaced with a more pertinent “No Fish No Nothing” slogan sweater.  That’s sure to be a bestseller, especially since there’s a cause to support.  That Lim and Leon thought to involve activism with the brand was definitely a shift from the conventional collaborations on the runway.

 

 

Hence why there were also hand drawn prints, which featured heavily in the collection were also deliberately chaotic and scrawled, highlighting the problem of overfishing and pollution.  They eventually turned red just to emphasie that there would literally be blood on our hands.  On an aesthetic level the scribble prints were easy on the eye, particularly when they were panelled into different shades of blue onto a boxy denim jacket.

 

 

On the accessories front the Kalifornia - a fusion of K for Kenzo and Lim and Leon’s Californian roots was the focal point accessory, emerging in all shades of blues, greens and textures that evoke the sea. Giant spring cord necklaces reminded me of bike lock-up keys that you mind find in Venice Beach.  I was particularly engrossed in the trainers/sneakers that Kenzo had come up with on their own.  It seemed inevitable that after their collaboration with Vans, they should come up with their own trainer option.  They balanced out with the metal grill rectangular heels that punctuated the collection. 

 

 

What impressed me most though, beyond the water feature theatrics, is the way Lim and Leon have broadening Kenzo’s design language.  Sportswear rooted ease still anchors their work but they’re not resting on their laurels and continue to give more of themselves into new gen Kenzo.  As the show came to an end and the models once again became a blurred mirage behind the wall of water, we were invited to go and have a look - an inclusive touch that other designers are now adopting.  The beat kept on pounding from the catwalk of water-filled speakers, as if to represent the pulse of life that Lim and Leon have breathed into the house".

 

Check Susie's blog here.