Fashion Legend Kenzo Takada Has Passed

The founder of KENZO passed away from complications due to COVID-19.

Kenzo Takada, the Japanese designer, known for forging the global brand Kenzo, has passed away at 81 following complications from the coronavirus.

“When I opened my shop, I thought there was no point in me doing what French designers were doing, because I couldn’t do that,” Mr. Takada told The South China Morning Post in 2019. “So I did things my own way in order to be different, and I used kimono fabrics and other influences.”

Characterized by mixing bold prints, Takada’s designs crossed borders and embodied diversity in the fashion industry. Over the five decades he was in Paris, his work opened doors for the highly influential Japanese designers who came after him — including the likes of Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto. 

“Kenzo Takada has, from the 1970’s, infused into fashion a tone of [poetic lightness and sweet freedom which inspired many designers after him. In this fresh and spontaneous spirit, he also durably renewed the world of perfume. The House he had established, KENZO, still explores his vision. I’m very sad to learn about his passing and express my sincerest sympathy to his family and friends.” Bernard Arnault, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at LVMH, wrote in a statement. 

Mr. Takada, later known in the industry as just Kenzo, was born in Himeji, Japan, on Feb. 27, 1939. As one of seven children, he became interested in design after reading his sisters’ fashion magazines. After attending Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo, he won the Soen Prize, an award given by the prestigious Japanese fashion magazine Soen. Takada noticed that western designers often referenced East Asian tropes when making their work. In the 1970s, he made a name for himself when he reclaimed his heritage by updating whimsical Japanese floral and animal prints for European tastes. 

After his life partner died and his business partner had a stroke, Mr. Takada decided to sell his company to the French fashion conglomerate LVMH. Initially, he stayed on as the designer, but slowly got disillusioned by the frenetic pace and commercial demands. The brand remains a fixture on the Paris Fashion Week calendar and has 122 stores worldwide. 

When he left in 1999, Takada launched K-3, an interior design and furniture store with Manheim and Engelbert Honorat, who continues his legacy to this day. 

“He had a zest for life,” said Manheim, in response to Takada’s passing. “Kenzo Takada was the epitome of the art of living.”

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