Kenzo History Case Study

Kenzo is a Japanese-French fashion house established as a premium fashion firm in France under the name Kenzo in 1970. The brand is famous for the Asian impact it has on classic European aesthetics, and its tiger logo has become quite popular. It has been spotted on celebrities worldwide and on the front of everything from sweatshirts to accessories and even homeware. This Kenzo History Case Study explores the history of this French luxury fashion house.

Kenzo History

For almost fifty years, the Kenzo label has advocated for the idea that clothing should not be limited by nationality and instead celebrate worldwide diversity. Since its inception in 1970, the Kenzo label has grown to represent a forward-thinking, distinctive style. The brand has become well-known for its authentic, unconventional style as time has progressed. Considering his origins and lack of industry connections, Takeda built an impressive fashion empire in a short amount of time. For one thing, nobody in the scene knew who Takeda was until recently. This section will help you become more familiar with the Kenzo brand, its origins, and the difficult road to becoming a successful player in the competitive Paris fashion industry.

Where Was Kenzo Takada Born?

Kenzo was on February 27, 1939, in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture. His parents, Kenji and Shizu Takada, owned a hotel and had seven children. His fascination with fashion began at a young age. His sisters used to take sewing classes as children, and Kenzo was fascinated by their efforts. As he looked through their magazines, which featured a variety of fashions from that era, his fascination grew even more.

Fashion Studies

He attended Kobe City University of Foreign Studies for a brief while in 1957. His father died in his first year of university, and he decided to drop out of school against his family’s wishes. Kenzo understood he was headed in the wrong direction after this experience, which served as a wake-up call. The Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo had just opened its doors to male students in 1958 when he enrolled there. He won the Soen Award for clothes design during his stint at Bunka in 1961. During this period, Takada worked as a girl’s clothing designer at the Sanai department store, designing up to 40 outfits a month.

Takada Was Paris-inspired

The Japanese fashion guru drew inspiration from Paris, particularly the work of Yves Saint Laurent. His teacher at Bunka, Chie Koike, was a graduate of L’École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, which piqued his interest in Paris further. Japan demolished Takada’s flat in preparation for the 1964 Summer Olympic Games, compensating him with little money. Takada followed his mentor’s advice and took a month-long voyage by boat from Hong Kong to Paris, stopping in several cities along the way, including Saigon, Mumbai, Marseille, and Marseille. It was 1 January 1965 when he finally reached Gare de Lyon train station in Paris. “Magnificent” Notre Dame de Paris was Takada’s first impression of Paris, which changed when his cab brought him past it, making him fall in love with it.

Almost immediately, Takada’s efforts bore fruit: Elle’s fashion magazine selected one of his designs to appear on the cover in June of 1970. When 1970 rolled around, he relocated his business from the Galerie Vivienne to the Passage Choiseul. The exhibition of Takada’s collection took place in 1971 in both New York City and Tokyo. The following year, he was awarded first place by the Fashion Editor Club of Japan. In 1973 and 1974, he is credited with making perhaps the most significant contribution to the fashion world when he led a silhouette change. He loosened and increased the volume of the famous peasant styles of the time to create what became known as the “Big Look,” with “big” meaning voluminous. This look would soon become the primary high fashion trend of the middle 1970s when he was credited with originating many significant trends.

Initial Struggles

At first, life was difficult for Takada in Paris, and he supported himself by selling fashion houses and individual sketches for 25 francs. He planned to move to Japan after a few months in Paris, but he solemnly swore not to do so until he had established himself there. He was intent on establishing a boutique fashion house in a region where none of his contemporaries had found a business.

Started with $200-Worth Fabric

In 1970, Takada met a woman who, while at a flea market, was interested in letting him rent a modest space in the Galerie Vivienne for an affordable price. After considering it, Takada decided to take up the opportunity and establish himself as a fashion designer. Although he had little money to work with, he went to the Saint Pierre market in Montmartre and bought $200 worth of fabrics. The result was an original and daring debut fashion collection. The collection was shown for the first time by Takada at his debut fashion show at the Galerie Vivienne. Because Takada and his pals did not have enough money to pay for professional fashion models for the event, they decided to paint the pimples of a model who had acne a green color.

Renaming the Brand

Takada painted the interior of his shop to have a jungle-like floral aesthetic. He was inspired to do so by the painter Henri Rousseau, particularly by his painting The Dream. The designer chose the name “Jungle Jap” for his first store because he wished to incorporate elements of the jungle aesthetic with those of his native Japan. The Japanese American Citizens League filed a summons to Takada in 1971 while he was on his first visit to the United States. In the warrant, the organization challenged Takada to remove the word “Jap” from the name of his firm. The name of the store was not without controversy. However, in the following year, the state’s top court affirmed the right to use the term as part of a trademark, so the request (right) is still in effect. After Takada returned to France with his team, they concluded that the brand should be renamed.

First Kenzo Physical Store

In October 1976, Takada established the Kenzo store, which would become his flagship location in Place des Victoires. In 1978 and 1979, Takada staged his performances inside a circus tent. The performances culminated with horsewomen performers wearing see-through costumes and Takada riding an elephant. This demonstrated Takada’s keen sense of dramatic presentation. In 1981, Takada was allowed to make a movie, Yume, Yume no ato- released that year.

Business Boom

In the 1980s, Takada’s business thrived. An increase from 30,000,000 F in 1979 to 240,000,000 F in 1984 saw Kenzo’s annual sales soar. In 1983, Takada launched its first men’s line. When Takada signed on to design Album by Kenzo for The Limited Stores in August 1984, they were referring to a lower-priced range of clothes. Children’s clothing and trousers for men and women were introduced in 1986 under Kenzo Jungle.

Kenzo Perfume

Kenzo is a renowned fashion house that also creates a wide array of complementary accessories. Additionally to producing furniture and kitchenware, the company has also dabbled in the beauty industry. It was in 1980 that he released his debut perfume, King Kong, which he had designed “simply for fun.” It all began with Kenzo de Kenzo (now known as a Sent Beau), Parfum d’été, Le monde is beautiful and L’eau par Keko. In 1986, Kenzo sought the advice of Serge Manseau, a glassblower who specialized in manufacturing perfume bottles to create a new fragrance. During their conversation, he revealed to Mansau his fondness for stones, and the two quickly set to work sketching up potential layouts. Half an hour later, Kenzo elaborated, saying that he, too, had a soft spot for blooms. It all started when Mansau found a plastic flower and stuck it on top of the stones with some chewing gum, marking the birth of the groundbreaking Kenzo Eau de Toilette. His first men’s scent, Kenzo pour Homme, was released in 1997. Vogue’s website rated FlowerbyKenzo as one of the best classic French scents of all time, debuting in 2000. The skincare brand, KenzoKI, was released in 2001 as well.

Takada Resigns

Kenzo’s men’s and women’s clothing designs were left in the hands of Roy Krejberg and Gilles Rosier after Takada announced his retirement in 1999. This is after he had sold the fashion house to the Bernard Arnault-led Luxury business LVMH. On September 9, 2003, LVMH presented Antonio Marras as the new artistic director of Kenzo Women. Marras was given this position after being chosen by LVMH. In addition to the positive outcomes that have already been achieved as a result of repositioning the brand and refining operating procedures, the appointment of Antonio Marras will support Kenzo’s rebirth and continued development.

Kenzo-H&M Partnership

Kenzo and H&M’s collaboration was announced at the start of 2016. On November 3, 2016, the Kenzo x H&M collection was made available in stores officially for the first time. The line featured many unconventional and innovative pieces, such as a bright green jumpsuit, baseball caps with a pattern of a jumping tiger, and Chelsea boots with green bottoms. Sellers on eBay were buying up all the stock at the MSRP and then reselling it up to seven times the MSRP, proving the rumors accurate.  The stories were true; savvy eBay sellers bought all the available stock at the suggested retail price and then resold it for up to seven times the suggested retail price.

Celebrities Who Love Kenzo

Celebrities fond of donning Kenzo include Kevin Hart, Beyoncé, Jay Z, Ye, and Joan Smalls. Rihanna, Zooey Deschanel, Selena Gomez, Swizz Beatz, and Britney Spears also wear Kenzo. Mitchelle Obama wore a Kenzo dress to show her respect for Japanese culture during her and her husband’s 2015 trip to Japan. Jesica Alba wore a striking Kenzo gown to the 2015 Met Gala in New York. During the 2019 premiere of Ugly Dolls, Nick Cannon also wore a Kenzo suit.

What Is in the Kenzo Logo?

Though the poppy has been associated with Kenzo, the label’s most recognizable symbol is Tiger. Carol Lim and Humberto Leon were still in charge. That’s when the tiger first appeared. Despite initial backlash, Kenzo florals are making a comeback in recent years.

Closing Thoughts

More than 50 years later, the Kenzo label continues to express a fashion without borders that honor the natural world and cultural plurality. To this day, the Kenzo label has been a symbol of revolutionary and eclectic aesthetics, defying the conventions and offering an authentic appearance that everyone admired. Takeda’s fashion empire grew quickly, even though his odds of success were initially limited due to his humble beginnings and a relative unknown in the industry. Takada Kenzo is no longer alive (he passed away in 2020 due to COVID-related issues). But he left behind a fashion empire famed for its uncompromising, daring values and bold and unique designs.

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