Joyful Motion. Kenzo AW21

With Felipe Oliveira Baptista, Kenzo is finally back on track. Forget ‘Tiger’ sweatshirts and endless logos – Oliveira Baptista wants to position the brand among the serious ready-to-wear brands, like in the Kenzo Takada days. “Intuition is a banned word at fashion houses these days. It’s as if there’s no space for it. But there was a lot of that in him,” Oliveira Baptista told Vogue, reflecting on the legacy of Takada, who died in October last year aged 81. Sticking to those values, the autumn-winter 2021 collection is dedicated to Takada, yet at the same time, Felipe didn’t reissue a single garment or print from the master’s greatest hits of the 1970s and ’80s. Instead, the designer paid tribute by evoking the founder’s presence through intuitive ideas. Silhouettes riffed on Takada’s most memorable moments through the spherical and orbital, the folkloric, and the cross-cultural. Balancing, as he does, the artisanal with the durable and sporty, Oliveira Baptista simplified and contemporized materials, turning Takada’s geometric lines into a kind of streetwear for a 21st-century Kenzo. Throughout, he painted the garments in the things the founder loved most: pansies, tulips, hydrangeas, and stripes. Honestly, it could have been one of Takada’s shows, shot in the Cirque d’Hiver, where he often presented his collections, with an original soundtrack by Planningtorock (listening it on repeat!) and models dancing in a harmony of shapes, colors, and patterns. Close-up, it was bursting with new life in a performance-y, vivid way. Refreshingly, Oliveira Baptista’s work for Kenzo doesn’t show many signs of pandering to a social media-driven shopping culture as his predecessors.  Before he started working on the collection, Oliveira Baptista was given access to footage of all the old Kenzo shows, which had been undergoing restoration at the time of his arrival. “In the first two seasons, I had only seen the photos and the clothes themselves, so I was struck by the magic of the shows: the intuition, the freedom, how the clothes were always moving. It made me want to portray the movement, the comfort, and the freedom these clothes give you. That’s very much what Kenzo stood for,” he explained. All those things felt like good timing for a post-lockdown proposal. Felipe is looking forward to digging into ‘true’ Kenzo even deeper in the next months. “He was quite revolutionary. When he first arrived in Paris, the way he was cutting clothes and playing with color was so different from the European way of constructing garments. That immediately gave women and men a new freedom of movement,” the designer said, reflecting on Takada’s fashion. “It’s not that he doesn’t have the place he deserves, but sometimes what he’s done is overlooked. The idea of extreme comfort in a very strong look feels very now. He did that first. It’s a very rich legacy.

“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.