Pascal Monfort teaches History of Fashion Design for several prestigious Parisian schools and analyses trends and consumer behaviors for equally prestigious companies. For KENZO he concieved a whole alphabet - KENZOPEDIA - that defines the brand and everything you need to know about it...For KENZINE, he talks about his vision of the brand and Fashion Design today.
KENZINE: Could you tell us a few words about your background?
PASCAL MONFORT: Right after studying Communication, Social Sciences and Fashion History, I started writing for various fashion magazines. At the same time - I was 24 - I started teaching Fashion History and Fashion Sociology for Parisian schools...and I still do it today. Then I spent eight years working for Nike, analyzing trends and consumer behavior. Today I have my own company and I advise brands on the trends that show potential for their businesses: those that will allow them to commit enthusiastically and wisely to the future. Today, my clients are among the leaders of their respective markets. Only the best companies use experience from the past and knowledge from the present to better understand the future.
K: As a fashion sociologist, how do you perceive the Kenzo brand today?
P.M.: The Kenzo brand is really interesting because it is totally geared to the desires of its time. It perfectly embodies the positive values of the present. It is global, unifying, and unpretentious; it meets the expectations of consumers, but it doesn’t partition them off into categories. Kenzo is a contemporary luxury brand that does not exclude fashion-conscious young people. Its success lies in its perfect consistency and in its understanding of what contemporary innovation really is. The brand knows very well how to appeal to the public using modern day solutions, without necessarily acting like a financial bulldozer ready to flatten anything on its path to success. It was ingenious to pull off such a successful campaign with Jean-Paul Goude and to create such instant appeal with the design of iconic new luxury products: sweatshirts, baseball caps and canvas tennis shoes. Nothing was imposed; it is the consumer who wanted Kenzo to offer these products.
K: You worked on KENZOPEDIA, why do think KENZO is a quite unique brand?
P.M.: It was a fascinating work. When I delve into history and when I interpret what it is today, I find Kenzo unique in many ways. In my opinion, KENZO is different from other brands because it is profoundly universal. It’s rare that a brand gets such a good response from such diverse audiences all at once: luxury magazine journalists, trendy editors, teenagers who love name-brand sportswear, the purchasing departments of prestigious shops, law students, influential bloggers, and internationally famous musicians; and in such diverse places as Seoul, Brussels, Amsterdam, New York, Paris, Hong Kong, London, and Shanghai. Such a universal, worldwide enthusiasm that crosses over generations and different styles: that is what is so unique. Kenzo brings people together.
K: Do you think that Carol and Humberto's work represents the continuity of Kenzo Takada's work?
P.M.: It’s clear that Carol and Humberto are Takada's successors. They have countless things in common with him, and similar backgrounds. Carol and Humberto represent so many things that Kenzo Takada cared about: freedom, cheerfulness, open-mindedness, love of travel and food, a fondness for Paris, the importance of friendship, resourcefulness, awareness of the present, energy, enthusiasm, versatility, a passion for books and magazines, a thirst for new encounters, and the belief that nothing is impossible.
K: How would you define the Kenzo woman or man?
P.M.: It is always tricky to reply to this all-important question (laughs).
I think of the Kenzo woman and man as being alert, energetic, armed with a sense of humor, mischievous, wandering, eager for new experiences, well-liked, willing to share, playful, in love with life, epicurean, elegant, fresh, and profoundly modern.
K: Carol and Humberto have brought their own way in trems of creative direction. What is it about them that intrigues you?
P.M.: Maybe because they make it look so simple. You can really feel that their vision is clear. A little piece of that vision can be found in every ingredient of the brand, and the resulting osmosis is perfect. People today can easily, instinctively adopt this brand because it is not repetitive or contradictory. This is the kind of offer that people expect from a fashion brand today.
K: For some time now you have been saying that fashion is reclaiming its sense of humor and standing up to pretentiousness. Do you think that this trend - if it is one - will turn out to be long-term?
P.M.: I have always considered that humor and humility are invaluable in such a complex world as that of fashion. Every figure who has made fashion history with a capital H has had those qualities. To me, this is not just a trend, it's a principle. That makes it eternal. Without humor and humility, the damage to a brand or its designer can be devastating. Fashion should never take itself seriously or consider itself the center of the universe. It should be a machine that cranks out happiness. There's enough gloominess elsewhere.
K: People often associate Kenzo with the digital sphere because of the collaborations with digital artists, its inspirations from the computer world and its digitally oriented communication. How do you see the "digital" influence on fashion today?
P.M.: Fashion does not exist in a vacuum. Throughout history, fashion has progressed alongside the dominating influences of its time. It has successively been influenced by religion and mysticism, social and spiritual liberation, and economic interests; and it is now being influenced by the digital revolution. Kenzo is a brand that feels at home in the digital world and that's a good thing, because we are only witnessing the beginning of a great revolution. The digital world is not just influencing fashion: it is transforming the way that it works. It is changing the way that we become aware of fashion and the way that we acquire it. I love the idea, for example, that the inhabitant of a small village today can have an immediate access to trends and style. I also think that it is great that everyone can access fashion shows through streaming. The digital revolution has brought democracy to fashion information broadcasting.