In Pictures: Three Decades of Kenzo Takada’s Pioneering Fashion

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© Richard Haughton_4
© Richard Haughton

A new book celebrates the Japan-born, France-based designer’s collections from the 1970s to the 1990s

Five years after moving to Paris from Japan, Kenzo Takada started selling his designs, alongside trinkets collected on his travels around the world, in a store at the city’s Galerie Vivienne. Entitled Jungle Jap – “I knew it had a pejorative meaning, but I thought if I did something good, I would change the meaning,” he would say of name to The New York Times – the boutique would come to define Takada’s irreverant East-meets-West approach to clothing, vividly decorated by colourful Henri Rousseau-inspired murals which were painted by the designer himself. It was far and away from the city’s storied houses and haute couture salons yet would alter the course of fashion forever. 

A new book, published by ACC Art Books, celebrates Takada’s career in fashion, which spanned over three decades ending in 1999 when he decided to leave the house he built (since 2011, it has been helmed by Carol Lim and Humberto Leon). Comprising sketches, photographs and letters Takada sent his mother, Kenzo Takada is a portrait of a designer who brought Paris fashion to life – pioneering the ready-to-wear collection with exuberant boutique-held shows, and finding fans in the modish women of the day, from Jerry Hall to Grace Jones. (Hall and Jones would also model and perform, respectively, in a 1977 show at Studio 54 in New York by the designer – the year before, Jungle Jap became simply Kenzo, to appeal to an ever-curious American market.)

Written by Kazuko Masui and Chihiro Masui – longtime friends of Takada – the book catalogues these defining moments, alongside his now-seminal garments, which marked a shift from the streamlined silhouettes of the 1960s to generous, wrapped proportions inspired by folk costumes the world over, including the designer’s own native kimono from Japan, Indian Nehru suits, and Middle Eastern turbans. Highlights include a photo essay detailing the creation of a wedding gown made from coloured ribbons for his A/W92 show, as well as a series capturing an exciting show making his departure from the house in 1999. The result is perhaps the most comprehensive document of the designer yet, a man whose joyful and energetic approach to fashion continues to enthrall decades on. 

Kenzo Takada by Kazuko Masui and Chihiro Masui, published by ACC Art Books, is out now.