NIGO's Era of KENZO Is All About Reinvigorating House Motifs

Taking his iconoclastic style to refashion the luxury house.

Fashion 
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NIGO has long been a staple name in the street style world. Since the legendary design pioneer joined KENZO in 2021, he continues to cement himself as one of the most notorious figures in Japanese fashion. NIGO’s name is now synonymous with streetwear and culture and it is evident that his influence spans globally.

With KENZO, he is able to take his irreverent style and make an inexpungible mark in the world of fashion. In the past few seasons, NIGO has reinvented the iconic Paris fashion house, staking his claim as the visionary for the modern-day KENZO label. In the wake of the death of Kenzo Takada, the brand’s founder in 2020, NIGO is even more mindful of his position at the house, understanding the importance of heritage and the necessity to balance traditions and contemporary trends. When it comes to generating buzz and staying relevant, NIGO is one of the few that come to mind in this modern space that combines streetwear and luxury. NIGO revisits the house’s signature motifs and reinvents the KENZO mindset through his copious knowledge and experience within the industry.

In an exclusive conversation with Hypebeast, we dive deeper into pinpointing Nigo’s ambitions for the luxury brand and a broader picture of how the Japanese designer is evolving streetwear culture through the guise of KENZO. By considering the past and taking a look into the vintage archives and previous fashion eras that inspired NIGO’s current collections for the house, the interview will give fans a renewed understanding of the intent behind his designs and an exclusive look into the artistry and vision that has elevated KENZO into the modern world.

Hypebeast: Kenzo Takada was amongst the designers that experienced a major fashion boom in Japan in the 1980s. How has his work influenced you as a designer, and do you remember your first memory of discovering KENZO?

NIGO: That was when I first became interested in fashion – in the ’80s. The DC [designer & character] brands were making an impact all over the world. The first time that happened for Japanese fashion, I think. KENZO was in that wave – one of the most famous and widely known brands. So, I was very aware of the brand, although I was still a kid and couldn’t afford to buy something like that. I used to go to shops to look at the clothes often, though.

Why is it so important for you to reach back into archives and vintage pieces to inform present-day collections?

Firstly, [it is] to get to know KENZO. KENZO should be nothing but KENZO. My mission is to make KENZO clothes, not to create my own work. That’s how Kenzo Takada will continue to live.

The floral patterns are central [because] that’s the expression of the KENZO style.

When it comes to deconstructing and reconstructing the iconography of the house set by Takada himself, what aspects allow you to honor the real-to-wear KENZO ethos?

What was it that provoked our first interest in fashion in our youth? This collection is an attempt to answer that question. “Real-to-wear” is the true essence of fashion. To me, it’s only exciting when the clothes have a real life in the streets of the city.

How would you describe today’s intersection between
streetwear and luxury fashion? You’ve also once said that streetwear is “a rebellion against luxury fashion.” Does this still hold true when you are taking inspiration for KENZO?

[Streetwear and luxury fashion] eventually met when it was appropriate for them to meet. As for the time of rebellion against luxury fashion – it is over. We’ve entered an era of coexistence.

You are a long-time friend of the late Virgil Abloh, known for collaborating with various artists at Louis Vuitton and bringing worlds of luxury and other mediums of art together. What is your take on collaboration when it comes to luxury fashion? Will we be seeing any from KENZO in the future?

Virgil’s way of working has become the norm now.

In a way, my work on KENZO is a kind of collaboration in itself. I don’t feel much of a need for a third party. Isn’t that the way forward to the next fashion?

A year in, it seems you are just getting started. Any preview notes you can share with us about your next collection?

The next show will be in January – all will be revealed then!

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