The Japanese designers arrived in Europe around the same time, circa the late ’60s and early ’70s, and helped revolutionize fashion with their exuberant creations. For the current artistic director of Kenzo, Felipe Oliveira Baptista, the dream was always to create a collection that brought together the two creatives’ work in a new way. “What really started me on this idea was their common burst of joy, intuition, and freedom,” Baptista writes. “What a delightful idea to start a dialogue between these two pioneers and punks of fashion.”
After meeting with both designers in 2019 and receiving their blessing, Baptista began imagining what a Kenzo x Kansai collection would look like. “Kenzo and Kansai were obsessed by animalia, and both endlessly reinterpreted traditional representations of animals in Japanese art,” Baptista says. “Animals and animal prints often gained a pop-manga treatment at Kansai, while at Kenzo it was more about their celebration and interaction with nature.” Both designers also appreciated youth culture, comfort, and movement, as well as an overarching sense of joy. Most importantly, Baptista notes, “Both believed that fashion should talk to everyone.”
The Kenzo x Kansai Yamamoto collection being unveiled today is a posthumous tribute to those values. Photographed in Paris, Baptista’s interpretations of Kenzo’s and Kansai’s work include T-shirts, jackets, pants, and accessories featuring animal graphics, Japanese text, and a bit of in-your-face color. “I believe this is probably how both Kenzo and Kansai would have liked to be remembered. Both dedicated their lives to infusing joy into the world,” he says. “My favorite piece would be a black T-shirt with a Kansai tiger head in the front and on the back, in Japanese calligraphy handwritten by Kansai Yamamoto himself, three lines that read: Kenzo, Kansai, Felipe.”
The collection will go on sale on November 30. Think of it as a significant memento of 2020, a poignant tribute to what fashion has lost and a small sign of where we might go from here.