A First Look at Nigo’s Kenzo, Where the Clothing is the Star of the Show

“There were flower patterns that I had never seen before. Great stuff that just didn’t get repeated as the brand moved into its bigger, let’s say more successful phase. A lot of the early shapes were very experimental in a way that wasn’t happening so much in the brand in the ’80s,” he says. “I found some of those ideas to be interesting too.” 

For his fall 2022 debut, flower prints and some of Takada’s own sketches from the 1970s are recreated on garments and accessories. Other ideas from the Kenzo archive, like Harris tweed tailoring and shawl-meets-snood collars, are re-introduced, while Nigo’s own obsessions like Ivy League style and Aka-e pottery appear as motifs. The silhouette is incredibly layered, not only literally, but with references that bridge East-West cultures. Several pieces reference the structure of a kimono. “The stylist had tied it up in a kind of logical way to tie together two straps, but to me, it just felt totally wrong. In showing everybody how to do this thing that comes from traditional Japanese clothing at that moment, I was just like, ‘Yeah okay, I’m really Japanese,’” he says with a smile. “I think that there are not so many people who understand what Kenzo means in terms of clothing—that’s what I want to focus on and bring people’s attention to during my time at the label.”

Nigo in front of Kenzo’s ateliers in Paris’s second arrondissement 

Photographed by Acielle / StyleDuMonde

Here he touches on something that, even if some of the intonation was lost in translation, feels like a barb to the way the fashion system, and especially its marketing arm, works now. “The goal for me at Kenzo—but I think in principle it should be the goal for everyone in fashion—is for the main collection that I’m putting most of my creative energy into to be the thing that is, even in commercial terms, the core driver of the business and the thing that people are most interested in,” he says. Not collaborations. Not drops. Not the fanfare or the celebrities or hype. “We are entering a period when the main collection is some kind of background,” he continues, “and it’s only the collaborations that generate any interest or sell, which, to me, feels like very much the wrong approach.” This from the man who effectively pioneered the collaboration in fashion, bringing KAWS and Futura into the fashion world and extending his own reach into product design and cafés in Japan. 

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