• LAURE GUILBAULT

Kenzo Taps Felipe Oliveira Baptista

The former Lacoste creative director will succeed design duo Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, who are officially parting ways with the LVMH-owned house on July 1.

Felipe Oliveira Baptista

LVMH-owned fashion house Kenzo has appointed Felipe Oliveira Baptista as its new creative director.

This comes after the luxury group announced the exit of co-creative directors Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, who presented their final collection for Kenzo on June 23.

"Felipe's talent as a designer, his expertise in clothing and personal attachement to diverse cultures will be valuable assets in rejuvenating the creative energy at the maison," LVMH Fashion Group Chairman and Chief Executive Sidney Toledanostated.

"His innovative and modern creative vision and well-rounded artistic approach will enable Kenzo to reach its full potential while respecting its unique heritage," Kenzo Chief Executive Sylvie Colin said.

Azores, Portugal-born, Paris-based Baptista will start his post at the house on Monday, July 1. He is best known for his eight-year tenure at Lacoste, which ended in May 2018. After graduating from Kingston University in London, Baptista held a position at Max Mara in Italy. He moved to Paris in 1998 and collaborated with Cerruti and Christophe Lemaire before launching a namesake label in 2003. He won the prestigious Hyères and ANDAM fashion prizes that same year. He presented his first collection for Lacoste in New York in 2011. The designer closed his own line in 2013 to focus on his work at the sportswear label.

Under his creative leadership, Lacoste surpassed €2 billion in revenue. "He had redefined the image of Lacoste into a more designer brand,” said Serge Carreira, lecturer in luxury management at Sciences Po Paris.

Meanwhile, the Asian-American artistic directors Lim and Leon injected new energy into the fashion house created by Japanese designer Kenzo Takada in 1970. During their tenure, they have touted values of diversity and inclusivity and staged imaginative events including at a skate park near Paris' Périphérique or at Disneyland.

But despite being at the forefront of the "merch" trend, Kenzo remains a subscale player in the LVMH universe, generating less than €400 million annually, according to market sources. What’s more, the last few years have brought great disruption to the fashion industry, with the drop-driven distribution model infiltrating high-fashion, requiring designers and merchandisers to create a drip feed of content and hit products. Kenzo was slow to make that shift. The novelty also wore off after eight years with the same creative leadership.

"Kenzo is all about contagious freedom and movement. Everything Mr. Takada did was suffused with joy, elegance and a youthful and bold sense of humor. Kenzo's constant celebration of nature and cultural diversity has always been and remains at the heart of the brand. These two subjects have never felt more relevant and compelling than they do today and will be instrumental to the future of Kenzo," Oliveira Baptista said.

Oliveira Baptista being Parisian is also likely to help. “He has a creative language beyond fashion that also includes photography and drawing, which is interesting for Kenzo," said Carreira. "It's a cultural brand."

https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/news-analysis/kenzo-taps-felipe-oliveira-baptista?from=2019-06-30&to=2019-07-01

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