Fashion week is always about embracing the new, and no change is quite as significant as a designer debut. It’s exciting to see how a new creative director handles and transforms the vision of a storied brand, channeling their own aesthetic into covetable clothing — which is exactly what made Kenzo’s Fall 2020 collection so intriguing to industry insiders.
The show took place inside a large, clear plastic bubble tube (to be reused at future Kenzo events) in Paris on Feb. 26, where the brand debuted the first ever collection from Felipe Oliveira Baptista, who most recently served as the creative director of Lacoste. (He reportedly increased revenues and spearheaded cool collaborations with the likes of Supreme while there.) Previously, Kenzo had been co-creative directed by Opening Ceremony founders Humberto Leon and Carol Lim for eight years, until the duo parted ways with the brand in 2019.
Once guests took their seats inside the translucent tent, a slew of co-ed models walked down the runway in oversized utilitarian jackets, hooded dresses, and long sweater sets. There was a distinct nomadic vibe to the collection, which founder Kenzo Takada built the brand on. In the 1970s, the Japanese native came to Paris and used his travel inspirations found from his trips around the world as the biggest inspiration for his work. “Traveling gave me a lot of inspiration," Takada recently told CNN. In the 1970s, when I was traveling, it was not like it is today. There was much more of a cultural gap when you were traveling from one country to the next, so that really drove me and gave me a lot of influence and inspiration to work on different things around my trips.”
Judging from the collection’s show notes, it’s clear that Baptista also had the idea of the fashionable nomadic traveler on the mind. “Emotional reference points converse and come together," the show notes read. "Summer memories of Felipe Oliveira Baptista’s childhood in the Azores. A photo album of his newlywed parents in Mozambique, on the threshold of skydiving. A surge of love from a moment in time. Imbued with evocations from a dream of Japan. The nomadic spirit of these wanderers of the world, sheltered by their clothes."
The convertible cocoon-like jackets that went over the wearer’s heads, the collage-like prints and the excess of zippers, pockets and hats are a stylish traveler’s dream. But the subtle minimalism that could also be seen in some of the collection, such as the monochromatic cobalt blue and Kelly green skirts paired with tops was also a winning combination. It’s a subtle sophistication that hasn’t been seen at Kenzo in recent collections.
Along with that, almost all of the silhouettes were slightly oversized. Even the floral prints worn by female models had a cool, genderless appeal and resembled a more abstract print and silhouette above all else. The bags and shoes also had a utilitarian aesthetic — sporty boots, and utilitarian waist belts were particularly cool.
Baptise has already made stylistic changes to the brand from the outside too — he changed the logo, removing “Paris" to give it more global appeal. Only time will tell, but if the standing ovation from the audience was any indication, the new Kenzo will be a next generation French luxury brand to watch for the foreseeable future.