Kenzo Takada is a Japanese-French fashion designer. One of the first male students to be admitted at Tokyo’s prestigious Bunka Fashion College, he is the founder of Kenzo & Kenzo Paris, a worldwide brand of perfumes, skincare products and clothes. Even though he retired in 1999, Kenzo remains highly active in the field of design and fashion and has collaborated on a number of high profile projects spanning hotels to interior design.
On February 27th 1939, Takada was born in Himeji, Hyōgo Prefecture, to parents who ran a hotel.His love for fashion developed at an early age, particularly through reading his sisters’ magazines. He briefly attended Kobe City University of Foreign Studies, but after his father died during Takada’s first year at university,he withdrew from the program against his family’s wishes.In 1958, he enrolled at Tokyo’s Bunka Fashion College, which had then just opened its doors to male students.During his time at Bunka, Takada won a fashion design competition, the Soen Award, in 1961. At this time, Takada gained experience working in a department store. Takada was inspired by Paris, especially designer Yves Saint Laurent. His interest in Paris was further fostered by his teacher at Bunka, Chie Koike, who was educated at L’École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne.
In preparation for the 1964 Summer Olympics, the government demolished Takada’s apartment, providing him with some monetary compensation. Kenzo Takada, a young fashion designer,bought a one-way, second-class passage to Europe aboard a boat. The six-week sojourn—with ports of call in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Djibouti, Egypt, and finally France—was a profound experience. Studying at the Bunka College of Fashion in Tokyo, Kenzo Takada had a brief stint working in Japan, before relocating to Paris in 1965, to work as a freelance designer.
Takada initially struggled in Paris, selling sketches of designs to fashion houses. After working with the Pisanti textile group as a stylist, and later with Relations Textiles, a consulting company, Kenzo took over a boutique in 1970.He opened up shop as a designer, with very little money to work with, he created an eclectic and bold first fashion show at the Galerie Vivienne. Inspired by painter Henri Rousseau, and in particular The Dream, Takada painted the interior of his shop with a jungle-like floral aesthetic.Wanting to combine the jungle aesthetic with his homeland, the designer decided to name his first store “Jungle Jap”.
Takada was involved in a relationship with Xavier de Castella, who died in 1990 from AIDS.
Playfully dubbed Jungle Jap, Takada’s first shop was located on Galerie Vivienne. Takada made garments unlike anything Paris was accustomed to. His first collection, presented in the spring of 1970.In June of the same year, Elle featured one of his designs on its cover.He moved locations from the Galerie Vivienne to the Passage Choiseul in 1970. Takada’s collection was presented in New York City and Tokyo in 1971. The Japanese American Citizens League issued a summons to Takada while on his first visit to the United States in 1971, challenging him to remove the word “Jap” from his business’s name.He eventually thought better of his decision, renaming the label and store Kenzo.
Takada opened his flagship store, Kenzo, in the Place des Victoires in 1976. in 1978 and 1979, he held his shows in a circus tent.Takada later made ventures into the perfume business. He first experimented with perfumes by releasing King Kong in 1980, which he created “just for fun”.In 1988, his women’s perfume line began with Kenzo de Kenzo (now known as Ça Sent Beau), Parfum d’été, Le monde est beau and L’eau par Kenzo. Kenzo pour Homme was his first men’s perfume (1991) and FlowerbyKenzo, launched in 2000. In 2001, a skincare line, KenzoKI was also launched.
Since 1993 the brand Kenzo is owned by the French luxury goods company LVMH.Kenzo retired from the brand, leaving his assistants in charge of the house. In 2005, Kenzo reappeared as a decorative designer, creating Gokan Kobo, a brand of home furnishings. In 2016, he designed a perfume for Avon.
Takada is launching K3, a luxury homeware and lifestyle brand located on the Boulevard Saint-Germain and at Parisian design trade show Maison et Objet. The K3 collections will drop yearly and be distributed worldwide.
1960: Kenzo Takada was the winner of the Soen Prize
1972: He was the winner of the Fashion Editor Club of Japan prize
1984: Takada was awarded the title, Chevalier (Knight) de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
2013: Kenzo joined the Asian Couture Federation as the organisation’s inaugural Honorary President
2016: Takada was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour