You know there's been an overhaul of gargantuam proportions at Kenzo, when you walk into an unknown venue (the atrium of the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie) and are faced with a three floor layer cake of pastels and you're greeted by a Magnolia Bakery cupcake (they were especially flown into Paris to bake them up) on your seat. You also do somewhat of a double take when a young, flighty IT girl sitting next to you starts going on about how "fucking cool" Kenzo is and how "fucking stoked" she is for the show. To be fair, I was also "fucking stoked", seeing as I gabbed about how much I was floored by Humberto Leon and Carol Lim's debut S/S 12 presentation for Kenzo in a few videos.
This A/W 12-3 show pretty much ran along that soaring course and hit a new high, albeit a more varied, mixed up and multi-layered than the first S/S 12 Ellsworth Kelly-inspired primary colour block fest of a collection. It's been a week where protection, darkness and a deliberately dour mood has prevailed atthe collections, which isn't to say that's a bad thing but Kenzo's show, held in this pastel jewel box of a venue was pretty much the perfect pick me up on a day when sodden rain and gusty winds tried to knock me down whilst schlepping around doing showroom/resee appointments.
Being bowled over by Karlie Kloss however is quite a different matter and her opening look of speckled army green wool and a tactile knit emblazoned with the Kenzo tiger set one tone for one part of the collection. In that I mean, there was definitely a lot to digest, especially when Lim and Leon were riffing off of textures of interior and architecture. The uniting focus was on tailoring but not from the corporate/formal strand of tailoring that also seems to have infiltrated the collections this week. Instead, it was the sort of tailoring that in fact feels familiar because of Opening Ceremony's own collections. There's a tangibility to all the shapes and it revels in the down to earth without the clothes looking pedestrian or ordinary.
I figured it's down to the choice of fabrics, patterns and embellished details – all the bits and bobs that get me really excited. From the vibrant sportswear and utilitarian detailing of last season, this time round, it was more sumptuous and enrichened, namely because everything from burgandy velvet to waffle and ribbed knits , geometric prints and quilting were thrown into the mix. Print wise, Lim and Leon seemed to stay true to their "No obvious florals" rule by instead asking the Spanish art director Juan Gatti to create a flowering grape print that incidentally looks like it might grace a chintzy vinyl tablecloth, but works well on on a belted jacket or trench coat. Like a lot of collections though, there is a bit of an outerwear onslaught going on, but Kenzo's coats and jackets come with jaunty knitted sleeves, vibrant prints and a rich palette. Jaunty – there's a word that hasn't popped up in a while, given that it has been a distinctly UN-jaunty season.
The tiger motif here was lifted from the early work of Kenzo Takada in reference to his store "Jungle Jap" on Rue Vivienne. There's already been a drop of Kenzo logo sweaters in colette and these tiger faced pieces will definitely go like hot cakes…
There was definitely an eighties tinged aesthetic to the styling, prompted perhaps by the jewellery created by Delfina Delettrez but also in some of the silhouettes. The whiff of 80s retro was only faint though, even if I did hanker after a Pat Clevland-esque sashay down the three-floor catwalk and escalators.
Predictable ol' me has already eyed up these marble print slip on metal-pronged brogues.
Looking at the final line-up of fifty and it does all look quite scattered but it's precisely this something for everyone approach that is pushing Kenzo forward into a new era, where girls like the one I was sitting next to will be clamouring after it with expletive-ridden energy. Great clothes that you mentally wish list sounds terribly simplistic. It's an attribute that shouldn't be dismissed offhand and Lim and Leon don't shy away from it either given that they've built Opening Ceremony with that pragmatic yet interesting approach. Their work as buyers and as the OC's creative directors has empowered them with a vision that goes beyond the tunnel-eyesight of a singular designer, obsessed by a theme or a muse each season. Instead Lim and Leon (with head honcho LVMH backing) seem to be orchestrating a total overhaul, evidenced by the series of videos that Kenzo have made (I still love this animated one by Jo Ratcliffe seen below), a new brand graphic identity and accompanying website and of course, the clothes.
The physical stores will undoubtedly go through a similar refurb too but for now, Kenzo is hitting department stores in a new way with Harvey Nichols in London having set up this Kenzo installation for the S/S 12 collection, complete with Ellsworth Kelly-type colour blocking. There's something about the campaign imagery and the logo that reminds me of Jean Paul Goude (who incidentally was present at the latest Kenzo show) and the pure aesthetics of post modernist design has been given a fresh lick of paint by Lim and Leon and injected so that it doesn't look retro or old-fashioned, but vibrant and current. All in all, I'm very much ready to board the Kenzo train with prices having come down somewhat from what they were. Or I'll do my usual thing of sniffing out items in sales, outlets and Yoox. Either way, Kenzo's new direction feels exciting to witness.