Luxury brand Kenzo, so called for its founder and namesake Kenzō Takada, has a long legacy of trailblazing designs, starting with its debut in 1970. Takada recently passed away, at the age of 81, but he left behind a lasting impression of design innovation that effortlessly fused East and West, that transformed streetwear into the vanguard of the fashionable, rather than the elitist couture of Paris.
As Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, who helmed the Kenzo brand from 2011-2019 declared in Business of Fashion, Takada was, “really the first Asian designer. He was the first in so many categories, but the first Asian designer to take on Paris and create a brand and a house and a new language for fashion.” It can be a challenge for a fashion designer to carry on the legacy of someone so well known, so established, and so iconic, but when Felipe Oliveira Baptista arrived at Kenzo as the new Artistic Director in 2019, he proved to be equal to the task.
In walking through Baptista’s debut collection for Kenzo earlier this year at Paris Fashion Week, we were instantly struck by how thoughtfully he had digested the codes of the brand, but had made them his own with new silhouettes, unisex designs, gorgeous prints, and of course, must-have accessories.
With respect to Takada, who had sold Kenzo to LVMH in 1993, Baptista’s first mission was to meet with the brand founder. Baptista sat across from Takada at lunch, and listened to his concerns about fashion’s changing identity. It wasn’t necessary for Baptista to do this; Kenzo no longer belonged to Takada. But, how else can you understand the history behind a storied brand without listening to its stories, and more than that, its original storyteller?
How else can you understand the history behind a storied brand without listening to its stories?
Baptista hails from his own prestigious background, having turned Lacoste into a billion dollar brand in his nine years at the helm. Kenzo was a new frontier, but in uplifting its codes, its foundations in pret-a-porter and its poetic fusions of form and function, Baptista hit his stride from the outset. Witness the new Kenzo ‘Onda’ bag, the wonderful new addition to the Kenzo line-up, which derives its name from the Portuguese and Spanish word for “wave”. A Latin point of view informs what is iconic to Japanese design, as in the renowned painting ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ by Hokusai, while playing to the street slang term “wave” that means fresh, distinct style (see: Kanye West’s track “Waves” from The Life of Pablo).
Coming from the “Going Places” collection, which derives its mood from the concept of nomadic existence, and clothes and accessories that compliment a “lived in ” life, the ‘Onda’ bag is discretely stylish, featuring an opening that dips in the middle and a long, elegant body, with an outside zippered pocket affixed with a Kenzo logo pull. Smaller versions can be slung across the body to finish a look, or you can choose a utilitarian tapered belt or arched smartphone pouch. Grained and polished leather versions come in an assortment of eye-catching colors from brick red or kelly green to khaki, cream, or black. Having tried on every one of the bags in the Kenzo showroom in Paris, our eye is firmly on the larger style – an everlasting monument to classic-meets-modern design.
Discover the new Kenzo ‘Onda’ line-up below, and look for the bag on www.Kenzo.com, which drops this month.