Going Places
Tatler Hong Kong|November 2020
For his first collection as creative director of Kenzo, Felipe Oliveira Baptista reaches back to the brand’s nomadic roots while drafting new values for its future
Rosana Lai

It was an especially sunny morning in February during Paris Fashion Week. Guests chatted among themselves as they sat in a winding plastic bubble, a labyrinth set in a garden courtyard, waiting for the Kenzo show to start. Then, suddenly, music began pounding as the first model appeared, wearing a sombre, all-black elongated suit jacket and a hooded cape that obscured half of his face. He was followed by models draped in a series of tunics and utilitarian wrap coats.

A few people cocked their heads in surprise—gone were the giant logos, the midriff-baring athleisure and the cartoon tigers stitched to the chests of sweaters, signatures of Kenzo’s previous creative directors Carol Lim and Humberto Leon. This was Kenzo by its newly appointed steward, Felipe Oliveira Baptista, who means to strip the brand down to its core. “Kenzo’s been doing elaborate shows in the last few years, but it’s been less and less about the clothes,” the 45-year-old designer tells me. Lim’s and Leon’s final show was a spectacle with 3,000 guests and a live performance by Solange Knowles. “So I decided to put everyone front row, in a garden with no decoration, to focus on the clothes. I wanted to bring back desirable things that people want to wear, like coats people can feel protected in.”

The Portuguese designer, who trained at Max Mara, Christophe Lemaire, Cerruti and his own label from 2003 to 2014, was most recently the creative director of Lacoste before joining Kenzo, the LVMH-controlled house founded by the free-spirited Japanese designer Kenzo Takada. Oliveira Baptista named his debut show Going Places, a tribute to the nomadic spirit of the house, but in a way it could be a reference for where he’s about to take the brand. “One of the first things I did was take out ‘Paris’ from the logo because Kenzo for me is from everywhere and for everyone,” he says.

Kenzo Takada sadly died this October at the age of 81 of the coronavirus. He first moved from Japan to Paris in the Sixties, by way of Hong Kong, Mumbai and Ho Chi Minh City. His itinerant spirit informed the aesthetic of the fashion house he started in 1970, which marks its 50th anniversary this year. Best known for his contagious optimism, Takada left an indelible mark on the fashion capital: his label referenced an eclectic medley of cultural influences with obvious nods to Japan, jumbled with floral and animal motifs. He became one of the most respected Asian designers of the 20th century and his legacy is now being carried on by Oliveira Baptista.

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