Before Kenzo became a street-style favorite—thanks to that colorful embroidered tiger sweatshirt—the French luxury label was more closely associated with its founder, Japanese designer Kenzo Takada. From its beginnings in the 70s, Kenzo was known for its east-meets-west aesthetic, bold prints and colors, and flowers, which became its signature. Takada retired in 1999, and the brand’s current creative directors, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, founders of American brand Opening Ceremony, were appointed in 2011.
So when retail giant H&M announced last May that their latest collaboration would be with Kenzo, the fashion world was on the edge of its seat till yesterday, November 3, when the limited-edition Kenzo x H&M collection finally launched globally, including in the Philippines.
Before all that craziness happened, Manila Bulletin had the opportunity to do an email interview with Leon and Lim, as well as with H&M’s head of design, Ann-Sofie Johanssen.
Kenzo: Humberto Leon and Carol Lim
How different (or the same) was designing this collection from your usual collections?
Humberto Leon: It’s been so much fun designing Kenzo x H&M. When we’re usually designing our collections, we like to think about what our customers need at all hours of the day, in every situation. It’s about creating a complete wardrobe, whereas Kenzo x H&M is a collection that’ll be in stores for such a short amount of time. We wanted every piece to be immediate, and be full of fun and playfulness. It was great to push the collection and make it about experimentation, about mixing it up and playing with your look.
Were there any difficulties or limitations to some of your ideas? If so, what were they?
Carol Lim: H&M are the perfect collaborators, because they don’t want any compromise. They gave us total creative freedom, and only want the pure DNA of the brand. They wanted us to challenge them, and to think big with our designs. To be honest, the only limitation was in editing the collections, and choosing the pieces we wanted to be part of Kenzo x H&M, but we’re thrilled with the result.
What do you think the long-term impact of this collaboration will be on Kenzo as a luxury brand?
CL: There are so many people around the world who only know our take on Kenzo, and this collaboration is the perfect opportunity for us to explore the legacy of our founder, Kenzo Takada. Mr. Takada is such an inspiration to us, because he was a designer who really broke all the rules in fashion. He was so instinctive, clashing together different prints and colors, and influences from all around the world. It’s great to be able to tell his story through Kenzo x H&M, and to give everyone a deeper understanding of the brand that we love.
H&M: Ann-Sofie Johansson
What was so special or distinct about Kenzo that H&M picked the brand as this year’s collaboration?
We’re so excited that Kenzo agreed to be the next H&M designer collaboration. Since they started as creative directors, Carol and Humberto have brought such amazing energy and attitude to one of the most famous Parisian brands. Kenzo today is about the fun of fashion, a look that has become a favorite of street-style fans all around the world. With each of our signer collaborations, we love to give our customers the chance to experience something completely new, and we can’t wait to share with them the fun and excitement of Kenzo.
Were there any unusual or special requirements by Humberto and Carol?
Carol and Humberto are such an inspiring duo. They’re a tight team, and know exactly what’s right for their brand and how to make each piece extra special. The process is the same that we follow for all of our designer collaborations. We meet first to talk about the nature of the collection, and then once everyone is happy, we give them complete creative control to create the collection they want. Once they have the finished sketches, we produce the first samples, and then begin a series of fittings until everyone is happy with the results.
Tell us about the choice of iconic French photographer Jean-Paul Goode as the campaign’s image maker.
We love to think big at H&M, and be more ambitious than we’ve ever been before. It’s such a pleasure each year to work with some of the most exciting and creative people in the industry. We also love to surprise our customers with our projects. Together with Kenzo, we believe that fashion is part of a wider global conversation, one that brings together creatives who are making a stand. We are so honored to have Jean-Paul Goude work with us on this amazing campaign and fashion show.
The Kenzo x H&M limited-edition collection is now available at H&M, Mega Fashion Hall and SM Makati