Today we want to talk to you about one of the most important stylists in the world, who died for Covid-19 on October 4th: we are talking about Kenzō Takada . The Japanese designer, who over the years had built an empire that bears his name, died following complications related to the virus and we want to pay homage to him by retracing his professional and personal life.
Kenzō Takada: the beginnings
Kenzō Takada was born in Himeji, a Japanese city of about 500,000 inhabitants, located in the Hyōgo prefecture on February 27, 1939. Since he was a child he has been passionate about fashion (he loves reading and leafing through his sisters’ magazines) and he cultivates this passion that drives him then to leave the University of Kobe to enroll in the Tokyo fashion school in 1958. This happens after the death of his father.
After graduating in fashion in Tokyo, the young Kenzō moved to Paris in 1964 to start his career in the world of the fashion system. But before moving to the French capital, Takada wins a fashion design competition, the Soen Award, in 1961. During this time, Takada gains experience working in the Sanai department store, where he designs about 40 women’s fashion dresses a month.
The inspiration for Takada comes from Yves Saint Laurent, his idol since he was a teenager.
Once in Paris, however, the first impact for the Japanese designer is not one of the best. In fact, Takada’s first impression of Paris was that it was “sad and bleak”, but he began to appreciate it when his taxi took him to Notre Dame de Paris, which he described as “magnificent”.
Success comes in the 70s
Kenzō Takada initially in Paris and forced to make do, selling his designs to fashion houses for 25 Francs each. Soon he plans to leave Paris to return to Japan, but he promises not to until he creates something big in the fashion capital. During this time, Kenzō works as a stylist at a fabric manufacturer called Pisanti.
The first fashion boutique in Kenzō is in the Galerie Vivienne: we are in 1970. With a few Franks she manages to buy fabrics and creates her first fashion collection, eclectic and daring , which immediately makes its way into the city. In fact, after a while he manages to present his first fashion show at the Galerie Vivienne.
Unable to pay more experienced models, the designer chooses to show ordinary people , even hiding their flaws, as in the case of a model covered with acne, which he paints green, to hide the flaw.
The success of that show makes it possible to sanction the definitive consecration of the designer, who with such tenacity and without a large capital behind him thus manages to carve out his space in the world fashion capital. Thus he opens his first boutique which he calls Jungle Jap because, inspired by the painter Henri Rousseau and in particular by “The Dream”, Takada paints the interior of his shop with a floral design, very similar to a jungle.
Thanks to his gimmick and the success of the show, Kenzō Takada appears on Elle. It is the final consecration for the designer who becomes famous all over the world. In 1971 he presented his collections in Tokyo and New York, and won the Fashion Editor Club of Japan award.
Nell’ottobre 1976 Takada apre il suo flagship store, “Kenzo”, in Place des Victoires.
Takada demonstrates his sense of the dramatic when, in 1978 and 1979, he held his shows in a circus tent, ending with horseriding performers wearing transparent uniforms and himself riding an elephant.
The designer also had the opportunity to direct a film called “ Yume, yume no ato “, which was released in 1981.
Takada’s first men’s collection was launched in 1983, while in August 1984, The Limited Stores announced that it had hired the designer to design a less expensive clothing line called “Kenzo’s Album”.
Shortly after he launched a line for children called Kenzo Jungle, as well as his collection of jeans for men and women: we are in 1986.
Shortly thereafter, the launch of its business in the perfume sector will also take place.
After a successful career and having created a recognizable and economically strong brand, in 1993 the Kenzo brand was sold to the LVMH empire.
The designer announces his definitive retirement from the scene in 1999, although from time to time he collaborates in events and with younger designers.
Private life and death by covid
Kenzō Takada was openly gay. Over the years he has a relationship with Xavier de Castella, who unfortunately died in 1990 of an AIDS-related disease.
De Castella helped design the designer’s Japanese-style home , construction of which began in 1987 and was only completed upon De Castella’s posthumous death in 1993.
In January 2020, Kenzō announces to the public that it plans to launch a new brand called K3, which makes its appearance on January 17, 2020 at the Maison et Objet fair, as well as in a Parisian showroom.
Unfortunately, it was one of the latest creations by Kenzō, who fell ill with Coronavirus, which caused his death on 4 October 2020 while he was hospitalized at the American hospital in Paris in Neuilly-sur-Seine. He was 81 years old.
Despite his death, the Japanese designer’s creative, innovative and tenacious soul will remain. This is enough to succeed in establishing itself in Paris. Which is no small thing.