October 4, 2020, was a sad day in the fashion world. Kenzo Takada died following his battle with COVID-19, and the news shook every fashion aficionado to their core. But for Felipe Oliveira Baptista, Kenoz’s Creative Director, Takada’s death was bitter-sweet. In a letter Baptista wrote to introduce his Fall/Winter 2021 collection for Kenzo, he notes “Our acquaintance was brief, nevertheless it felt like I lost someone close to me. The following Monday I was back at work, still numb from the recent shock. Time to start working on the next collection. Where to start?”
In times such as these, it’s often best to revisit the past and reflect. So that’s exactly what Baptista did. Looking into the Kenzo archives, he found recently-restored videos of Kenzo’s shows from 1978 until 1985 — arguably the late designer’s glory years — which although he already knew of these works, inspired Baptista to see the clothes in a new light, once indebted by the movement, color, and joy that frequented Kenzo Takada’s world.
For FW21, Kenzo invites us into Takada’s vision but combines this with a contemporary approach of celebrating the past, rather than tributing it. As a result, archival garments were photographed and cataloged for studying before they were reimagined. “Collage, cut, paste, erase, draw, turn them inside out, then upside down, dissect them, pull them apart, and back together again. Sketchbooks were filled with collages, drawings and pictures of possibilities. Possibilities of a new narrative, a new collection, a new silhouette, new clothes, new functionalities, new sensualities. Possibilities of a new world. A world without borders, prejudices, and stereotypes,” notes Baptista.
The result includes plenty of color and motion, littered with all the things Takada loved — “Landscapes, hortensias, birds, chains, roses, stripes, pansies, tulips, and cocktail glasses.” Models are gleeful and almost spring down the runway wearing looks that are quintessentially Kenzo, but without-a-doubt a modern homage to the past.
A large fringed checkered scarf covers a model’s head before it blends into a matching sweater, of which its stripes melt into the equally vivid highlighter green trousers, and this look is copied over into a blue ensemble that, this time around, comes with beyond-exaggerated oversized wide-leg trousers.
Footwear reminds us of the ’90s and early ’00s, presenting an array of strappy snow boots, mid-cut hiking boots, and others styled more like futuristic, robotic stompers. These sit alongside full floral looks comprising puffy pants and a matching jacket, another floral coat that opens up to become a cape, fully-printed bodysuits — spot the model who looks like a flower? — as well as more oversized pieces such as the puffer dress that’s frilled with a tier of skirts.
Kenzo’s FW21 collection is a celebration of all the things Takada loved, reimagined by Baptista’s respect for the archive and carrying on the memory of the late designer. Take a look at the FW21 offering above, including some backstage shots and closer looks at the best pieces from the season. You can also catch the entire presentation on Kenzo’s website.
For equally bold fashion, check out Raf Simons’ co-ed FW21 show.