KENZO CELEBRATES CULTURE IN FALL/WINTER 2023 COLLECTION
Artistic director Nigo explores tradition, heritage and history while paying homage to Kenzo's archive
A familiar melody carries throughout the Salle Pleyel as Pharrell, Troye Sivan and Pusha T take their front-row seats ahead of the show’s start. All-female Japanese string group 1996 Quartet sits center stage, the tunes that echo throughout the darkened concert hall – renditions of a collection of The Beatles hits – carrying from their instruments, creating an aura of whimsical excitement. As the musicians’ fingers float across their strings, the models begin to cascade down the red runway, wrapping around each turn and bending with such effortlessness that it appears they are gliding down the very melodies that are playing around them.
In a collection that does a seamless job blending together influence, artistic director Nigo explores and elaborates on his own world within the legacy of Kenzo Takada by simultaneously traversing the relationship between British, American, and Japanese street culture, a point of long-standing fascination for the creative. The result? The curation of a dynamic, elevated wardrobe composed across cultures, eras, and styles offers a surprisingly refreshing take and expansion on the often-referenced rocker and mod closets of the 60s and 70s.
A color scheme of navy blues, bright oranges, royal purples, yellow, and a range of plaid patterns guide the collection while allowing for individual experimentation from piece to piece. From shearling suede pieces founded in American military tropes to new fabrics inspired by the Japanese quilting technique sashiko – traditionally employed in kendo uniforms in which Nigo took lessons in school – to an array of British, Scottish, and Italian wools, jacquard, and corduroys, every item represents a type of multicultural celebration, from their tailoring to the choice in material. Derived from that of samurai, the uniform of kendo also inspires Y-shaped jacket closures and voluminous box-pleat hakama skirts interpreted in Japanese denim, while echoing the kilt silhouette native to Great Britain whose heritage country wardrobe serves as inspiration for an upcoming collaboration with Hunter that was unveiled. Each item tells a specific story, transporting audiences from the concert hall and to the rolling hills and cities, and cliffsides that have inspired such pieces.
The homages continue within the clothing’s silhouettes, a stand out being an almost disco-inspired tiered slip dress drawing on the iconic shapes of Kenzo Takada’s work in the 1980s. Stand-out prints of the collection – the KENZO dazzle stripes, roses, and a floral collage theme – are reworked archival motifs of the 1980s as well, given slight punk updates that allow them to remain focal points of the collection while effortlessly being blended amongst the other pieces. Even classic 1960s silhouettes are given a modern spin – a favorite being a full ensemble composed of a mod-inspired cropped jacket, bra, and mini skirt atop a pair of floor-length trousers. A number of animal motifs also appeared on the runway, from tiger badges to goldfish imagery – a Japanese symbol of good fortune. Also inspired by previous KENZO adaptations, a range of bags influenced by Scottish dress and pouches that celebrate the traditional kimono pouch serve as the perfect finishing touches, while the iconic KENZO clog was worn adorned with flowers and the KENZO western ankle boot further celebrated American archetypes.
In an elegant ode to exploration and cultural celebration, Nigo not only continues to define Kenzo as curious and ever-evolving but pays homage to the legacy of Kenzo Takada by reworking, reimagining and diving into archival looks in his own creation of a wardrobe steeped in tradition, heritage, and history. While one may expect a stark juxtaposition between traditional Japanese construction versus American workwear, Nigo is able to create pieces that engage with one another, curating a unique complimentary blend of influences. As the quartet’s instruments quietly come to a close and the models retook the runway for one last spin, it is obvious that Nigo has created something not only new but exciting, bold, and modern.