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. 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.