Paris S/S12: Humberto Leon & Carol Lim for Kenzo

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Kenzo S/S12
Kenzo S/S12Photography by Alex Brunet

Opening Ceremony founders Humberto Leon and Carol Lim may seem an unexpected choice to take over Kenzo after Antonio Marras’s boho silhouettes but their first collection...

Opening Ceremony founders Humberto Leon and Carol Lim may seem an unexpected choice to take over Kenzo after Antonio Marras’s boho silhouettes but their first collection, presented in the brand’s head office by Palais Royal to the sound of a drumming Jason Schwartzmann, brought a whiff of urban je-ne-sais-quoi to the now classic Franco-Japanese label. “Colour, boldness, mix and match, a play on proportion – that’s all inherently part of Kenzo, but things we love too,” Lim told AnOther after the show. “But more importantly,” added Leon, “Kenzo has always been about how he brought his personality into the brand, and that’s what we’re also going to do – with respect to his DNA of course.”

The collection attempted the perilous high jump between 1970s Parisian seen through the eyes of a Tokyoite and an “East-Coast West Coast dialogue” and landed on its feet. The spirit of old-school Kenzo was definitely present: maxi leg pants, intrepid block colors and contrasting patterns – yet merged with tongue-in-cheek straw baseball hats with oversized visors, windbreakers and snap fastener trousers. The duo subtly switched the brand’s trademark flower motifs for fishnet imprints and science book-like bird prints; deconstructed trench coats; ankle length body-con dresses and artfully mismatched ensembles, all in a cheerfully Lower East Side atmosphere. “This is just a hint of what’s to come...” teased Lim with a smile.

After their Kenzo S/S12 show on Sunday, AnOther took time out with the design duo to have an in-depth discussion about their past, future and the new challenges they face with the brand.

It’s a big challenge to take over Kenzo, what was your main aim?
Humberto Leon: We wanted to pay homage to what Kenzo created in 1969; so we wanted to take what the brand is all about and reinterpret it in our own way.
Carol Lim
: We wanted to bring back the fun of the brand, in a way that feels really luxurious but also accessible.

So where do you draw the line between Kenzo’s style and your own style?
HL: Kenzo has a lot of floral and animal patterns, but we made our own prints, inspired by say sea shell art that you find people doing in small seaside towns – we love travelling, catching fish and so there is an element of that in the collection
: We were also very much inspired by Ellsworth Kelly, who used to love watching birds, and also came to live in Paris.

There is also a new urban touch to the collection…
: Yes, we were also influenced by our childhood in the suburbs of Los Angeles, where we watched a lot of different subcultures.
: …so we looked at streetwear references, that we mixed in an elevated way keeping Paris in mind.

What have you learned with Opening Ceremony that you can bring to Kenzo?
: We have seen the collections from beginning to end, from the early stages of design to seeing through to our customers – that’s a huge lesson.

And the biggest challenge?
HL: The biggest challenge was moving to Paris and adapting to our new personal and professional life.
: ...and doing this is such a short lapse of time!
: But Paris is great to see during non-fashion week. We live by Bastille and love our favorite boulangerie, the local market and cooking at home.

Text by Alice Pfeiffer