If you want to cheer yourself up, take a trip to the nearest Kenzo store you can find. Even if you’re most at home in a little black dress, you’d need a heart of stone not to be uplifted by the sheer beauty of the new collection.
All Kenzo fans will know that although Kenzo Takada was born in Japan, the distinctive mark of his collections was that he managed to transmute his Japanese roots and culture into clothing that resonated in the West and – more importantly – could be worn in the most sophisticated of circles without ever seeming too “ethnic” or like fancy dress.
The easy catchphrase of “East meets West” was how the caption writers put it, but while that was perfectly true, it doesn’t fully convey the artistry behind the collection, the infinitely subtle balancing of pattern, colour, shape and cut.
Not too many people know that Kenzo’s multiple patterns came about because when he first arrived in Paris he was so poor that he used fabric found in flea markets, and so needed lots of different pieces to create a single garment. He first came to the fashion world’s attention when he opened his Jungle Jap store in Paris in 1970, but 10 years later it became just Kenzo.
He had two distinctive trademarks running through all his collections. The first was that he always managed to incorporate some aspects of the kimono into his clothing; the second was his love affair with things floral. There was also a fluidity about his clothes, which at the time was in stark contrast to the formality of most Parisian designers, but the most outstanding characteristic of his clothes was that they were always joyful.
Kenzo has long since retired and for the past eight years Antonio Marras has been at the label’s helm. His spring/summer 2011 collection, in the shops now, ravishes the eye and touches the heart. Although Marras is Sardinian, he seems to have immersed himself in the Kenzo aesthetic.
“I’m fascinated by what is opposite from my culture,” is how he puts it, “more particularly by Japan and its kimonos. The kimono is an essential object, perfect, totally complete.” He loves its simplicity, its geometric forms.
The new collection has all the distinctive Kenzo codes and heritage – the fluidity, the intricacy, the sophisticated combinations of myriad different patterns, the layer upon layer of ravishing textiles, the hints at traditional Japanese shapes (the kimono, the obi, the flowing trousers), all combined into a wonderfully lyrical, poetic collection that once seen is difficult to resist.
And although the Kenzo label always has its own aesthetic, this summer florals are part of a more mainstream trend. From Erdem and Dolce & Gabbana to Alberta Ferretti and Paul Smith, flowers reign.
Dresses start at about £450, though most are about £1,100; trousers start at about £650; and jackets start at about £1,100.
First picture, left: dress, £1,025, trousers, £895. Centre: dress, £3,835, shoes, £385. Right: jacket, £1,065, top, £715, trousers, £845. Second picture, left: dress, £1,025, trousers, £1,195, shoes, £380. Right: dress, £590, shoes, £380.