The Japanese fashion designer who founded Kenzo died from Covid-19 complications yesterday in a hospital near Paris.
A spokesperson for the famed creative confirmed Kenzo Takada’s death just four days after his eponymous brand showed its Spring/Summer 2021 collection at Paris Fashion Week.
Despite leaving the brand in 1999 to enjoy a “permanent holiday”, the 81-year-old was still involved in maintaining Kenzo’s image and working on K3, the luxury homeware and lifestyle brand he introduced last January, almost 50 years after founding fashion brand Jungle Jap, which later became known as Kenzo.
Takada was born on February 27, 1939, in Himeji, Japan, to hoteliers, and developed a love for fashion at a young age while reading his sisters’ fashion magazines.
After becoming one of the first male students to study at Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo he moved to Paris at the age of 26 to become a freelance designer.
Though he only intended on staying in Paris for a few months, he ended up staying long-term, and five years later—in the spring of 1970—he used just $200 worth of fabric to create his first fashion collection.
It was the birth of Kenzo, as we know it today, and his designs quickly earned him a reputation as one of the most important designers to emerge from Paris in the Seventies.
He was an early disrupter: presenting Spring collections in spring, rather than a season ahead, encouraging people to buy what they see a good 45 years before the retail model was more widely adopted.
In that same year, he took over a Paris boutique and had his clothing featured on the front cover of Elle magazine. Takada even staged in-store ready-to-wear shows during couture season, years before the concept of ready-to-wear began (circa 1976).
As his Japanese-inspired designs continued to entice global buyers, Takada continued to make a name for himself by holding fashion shows in circus tents and riding elephants out onto the catwalk to end his shows.
Kenzo was later bought by luxury goods conglomerate LMVH in 1993, joining the whos-who of luxury brands like Fendi, Givenchy and Marc Jacobs.
Takada was awarded a Legion of Honour (the highest order of merit for military and/or civil merits) in 2016, followed shortly by the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 55th Fashion Editors’ Club of Japan Awards in 2017.