Ethinc chic

The Kenzo la­bel’s mul­ti­cul­tural vi­sion has brought colour to the cat­walk for 40 years.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By HI­LARY ALEXAN­DER

ACARAVANSERAI of 40 mod­els formed a re­volv­ing, global fashion pageant un­der the Big Top of the mid-19th cen­tury Cirque d’Hiver dur­ing the Paris pret-a-porter sea­son last month. The clothes were a mul­ti­cul­tural rep­re­sen­ta­tion of far­away lands and soar­ing imag­i­na­tion. They also rep­re­sented four decades of one of the most en­dur­ing brands in mod­ern fashion: Kenzo.

An­to­nio Mar­ras, the de­signer and artis­tic di­rec­tor of the brand since 2003, cre­ated the 40th an­niver­sary fashion ex­trav­a­ganza from the Kenzo archives, mix­ing 70s, 80s, 90s and the last decade in an ex­otic jumble as fan­tas­ti­cal as the orig­i­nal de­signs of the brand’s founder.

When Kenzo Takada, the ir­re­press­ible Ja­panese de­signer, set up shop in rue Vivi­enne in Paris in 1970, he was part of a seem­ingly never-end­ing fes­ti­val of fash-fashion cre­ativ­ity that em­bod­ied youth, moder­nity, fun and free­dom – far re­moved from the old-fash­ioned mi­lieu of the tra­di­tional French mai­son. His la­bel, first called Jun­gle Jap, be­longed to Paris’s su­per-club of emerg­ing tal­ent that in­cluded Yves Saint Lau­rent, Karl Lager­feld, So­nia Rykiel, Thierry Mu­gler and Jean Paul Gaultier. To­gether they rode the ready-to-wear wave, the rev­o­lu­tion­ary style de­signed by and for the young.

Kenzo be­came fa­mous for its clash­ing colours, patch­work pot­pourri and eclec­tic in­spi­ra­tion. One of the first to bring eth­nic chic to the street, he de­lighted in the folk­loric fairy tale, whether from Old Bo­hemia, Mother Rus­sia, Machu Pic­chu, the Manchu Dy­nasty or the Sa­mu­rai era.

Over three decades, Kenzo ex­panded into menswear, jeans, chil­drens’ wear, a home col­lec­tion, fra­grances and a flag­ship The DNA of Kenzo is main­tained in the fabrics used. bou­tique in the Place des Vic­toires. The 90s also brought change with, firstly, the house be­com­ing part of the LVMH group in 1993, and, fi­nally, in 1999, Kenzo Takada’s de­ci­sion to step down.

His de­par­ture led to sev­eral years of fashion floun­der­ing be­fore An­to­nio Mar­ras was named artis­tic di­rec­tor for wom­enswear in 2003 and, then, for the en­tire brand, in 2008. It was a vi­sion­ary ap­point­ment; Mar­ras re­cently ex­tended his con­tract un­til 2014.

Like Kenzo, he has a po­etic, at times aca­demic ap­proach to fashion, cre­at­ing col­lec­tions in­spired by the pas­toral tra­di­tion and rich his­tory of his na­tive Sar­dinia, which over 2,000 years has been set­tled or sacked by Phoeni­cians, Carthegini­ans, Sara­cens, Moors, Greeks and Ro­mans. His in­tel­lec­tual, no­madic spirit and deep un­der­stand­ing of cul­tural iden­tity and the mix of fan­tasy and re­al­ity are in­ti­mately aligned with the Kenzo her­itage.

Mar­ras main­tains two dis­tinct de­sign milieux to match his twin fashion hats. He is based in Al­ghero, Sar­dinia, where he lives with his fam­ily, and works on his own-name col­lec­tions, shown twice a year in Mi­lan. Ev­ery few weeks, he and his wife, Pa­trizia, re­lo­cate to Paris, al­ways in the same room at the Ho­tel Costes, close to the Kenzo HQ in the rue Vivi­enne.

“I am two dif­fer­ent peo­ple; I must cut my brain in two,” he says. “When I am An­to­nio Mar­ras, I work in one di­rec­tion; it’s more about tailor­ing, con­struc­tion and the in­spi­ra­tion may be more melo­dra­matic, like Puc­cini or Verdi. When I am Kenzo, I start with an imag­i­nary jour­ney of a Ja­panese boy or girl who dis­cov­ers Europe. I try to bal­ance the sym­me­try and rigour of the Ja­panese cul­ture with the wild free­dom of Sar­dinia, but al­ways re­spect the DNA of Kenzo.

“The sim­i­lar­ity is the spe­cial way I work, with fab­ric and swatches; it’s how an idea can take flight. It was the same with Kenzo. He was a rev­o­lu­tion­ary of his time, and his mis­sion was to cre­ate a new high street of style. He was bril­liant. His her­itage was of not hav­ing lim­its, a com­plete cross­over be­tween East and West, in­spired by the arts, his­tory, tra­di­tion, peo­ple. It’s what Kenzo was about, and it’s what An­to­nio Mar­ras has al­ways been about, too.

“When I first met Kenzo, he told me he felt we were like broth­ers in fashion. Peo­ple may not think there is much the same about the ki­mono and the clothes of a Sar­dinian peas­ant. But one of Puc­cini’s most beau­ti­ful op­eras, Madama But­ter­fly, was set in Ja­pan, so in a way I feel there is a cer­tain destiny to my life.” – © The Daily Tele­graph UK 2010 A mod­ern ap­proach for Kenzo’s ready-towear spring-sum­mer 2011 col­lec­tion.

At­ten­tion is paid to de­tail even down to the head­gear. Top gear: An­to­nio Mar­ras’s clothes are a mul­ti­cul­tural rep­re­sen­ta­tion of far­away lands.

The new col­lec­tion is in­spired by pas­toral tra­di­tion and Sar­dinia’s his­tory.

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