Kenzo Takada: An Appreciation of the Designer’s Life and Work

Kenzo Takada: An Appreciation of the Designer’s Life and Work

Every wall, every corner of the sky, every passer-by in the city provides inspiration for me when designing my collections.” —Kenzo Takada 1939-2020

The sad news broke early last October that Kenzo Takada the revolutionary, much loved, fashion designer had passed away at the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine from Covid-19 complications at the age of 81. He was laid to rest at the Père-Lachaise cemetery. In advance of the upcoming Artcurial auction on May 11, an online event that will auction off 600 pieces including furniture, objects and paintings from Kenzo’s private collection, we are shining the spotlight on the designer’s life and career.

Kenzo Takada was born in Japan on 27th February, 1939. Like so many writers, artists, dreamers, film stars, poets, curious people, you and I, he originally came to Paris (in 1965) for six months to follow his dream.

In 1970, his first collection, in Galerie Vivienne, garnered rave reviews. Then, in the Le Mariais district, his first boutique, the buzzing Jungle Jap. During the first twelve months he wowed fans with four quirky designer shows and, ever the gentle disruptor, pioneered the new and exciting ready to wear concept – prêt-à-porter.

The fashion icon Kenzo Takada’s Paris home was filled with treasures fusing cultures and styles collected over 50 years. Photo credit © htsi, Twitter

KENZO, the impressive flagship/concept store, opened in 1976 on Place des Victoires – the perfect setting for his wild signature jungle prints and tiger motifs, inspired by the likes of French painter Henri Rousseau. Fashionistas (and muses such as Jerry Hall, Grace Jones, Gunilla Lindblad, Sayoko Yamaguchi) became lifetime followers of everything he created, including fragrant perfumes, must-have accessories and, later on, furniture.

In 1993, the Kenzo brand was acquired by LVMH and in 1999 Takada stepped down, “to enjoy permanent holidays and to paint.” However, he always stayed involved with the eponymous brand. An enthusiastic collector, passionate about interiors, he launched K-3, an achingly chic furniture brand, with contemporary HQ on Boulevard Saint-Germain and collaborated, colorfully of course, with Roche Bobois. In 2015, Takada was dubbed Knight de la Légion d’Honneur by Laurent Fabius, then President of the Conseil Constitutionel.

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Photo credit © Jebulon, Wikimedia. Public domain

I spotted Kenzo Takada some years back, dining at Le Voltaire, the traditional brasserie and former home of the writer and philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778). The left-bank “power table”, situated opposite the Seine, is famous for the polished dining room with green banquettes, snobby waiters, celeb clientele, legendary egg mayo capped at 0.90€ as well as the perfect French onion soup, duck confit and profiteroles. He’d probably walked there from the Ed Tuttle-designed apartment (decorated with Artcurial’s carefully curated pieces) located opposite the Hôtel Lutetia.

For Jonathan Bouchet Manheim, CEO of K-3, “Kenzo Takada was incredibly creative, with a stroke of genius, he imagined a new artistic and colorful story combining East and West – his native Japan and his life in Paris. He had a zest for life and was the epitome of the art of living.”

Watch KENZO’s Spring Summer 2021 campaign show

Diary Date: The viewing for the Artcurial auction is from Friday 7th – Monday 10th May 2021. The Sale is on Tuesday 11th May 2021 at 2 pm.

Artcurial – 7, rond-point des Champs-Elysées – 8th Paris

Catalogue available online at Artcurial. In collaboration with Christie’s

Need to Read: Kenzo Takada

Browse through a preview of the Kenzo Takada book via

Lead photo credit : Kenzo Takada. Photo courtesy of K-3

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Born in Hampton, Middlesex, UK, Margaret Kemp is a lifestyle journalist, based between London, Paris and the world. Intensive cookery courses at The Cordon Bleu, London, a wedding gift from a very astute ex-husband, gave her the base that would take her travelling (leaving the astute one behind) in search of rare food and wine experiences, such as the vineyards of Thailand, 'gator hunting in South Florida, learning to make eye-watering spicy food in Kerala;pasta making in a tiny Tuscany trattoria. She has contributed to The Guardian, The Financial Times Weekend and FT. How To Spend, The Spectator, Condé Nast Traveller, Food & Travel, and Luxos Magazine. She also advises as consultant to luxury hotels and restaurants. Over the years, Kemp has amassed a faithful following on BonjourParis. If she were a dish she'd be Alain Passard's Millefeuille “Caprice d'Enfant”, as a painting: Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’herbe !