Portrait of Tammy Strobel


Kenzo Takada passed away recently on Oct 4 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, becoming one of the most well-known personalities to have succumbed to Covidrelated complications.

An indomitable force throughout his life, Kenzo was born to a family of seven children in Himeji, Japan, in 1939, He developed a passion for fashion design when he accompanied two of his sisters to their sewing classes. In 1965, he bravely travelled alone to the heart of the fashion industry, Paris. What was supposed to be a six-month visit became a permanent stay.

Known for his signature use of cheerful colours, animal motifs, floral and geometric patterns, Kenzo was the first Japanese designer to be established in Paris, even before his peers like Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto. In 1970, he launched his eponymous label, and six years later, he opened his flagship boutique along Places des Victoires.

Having made a name in the world of women’s fashion, he launched a men’s fashion line in 1983, followed by a fragrance brand in 1988. All these ventures proved to be so well-received that in 1999, the Kenzo brand was sold to luxury conglomerate LVMH at a whopping amount of US$80 million. In 1999, Kenzo retired, ending his illustrious career in fashion. Yet it was a start of his foray into interior design, for architecture and interiors, it seems, were key reasons behind Kenzo’s decision to give up his fashion empire. 

“Investors and banks with a keen nose for business opportunities approached me unofficially looking to buy shares. Of course, I kept my guard well up. But, thinking just a little bit couldn’t hurt, I tried selling a four-per-cent stake. I was astounded. An incredibly large amount of money had fallen into my lap all at once. If I sold some more shares, I might be able to build my own ‘castle,’ one that’s not only gorgeous but also incorporates all of my aesthetic sensibilities,” he shared in an interview with Nikkei Asia.

Kenzo’s dream came true when he purchased a 1,100sqm building along Place de la Bastille, spending the next seven years to turn it into a three-storey mansion with Eastern-style interiors and a Japanese garden. Kenzo’s love for home interiors culminated in the launch of a new furniture and home accessories label K-3, whose inaugural collection debuted at Maison & Objet Paris in January, just months before his untimely demise.

The world mourns with the knowledge that we will not be able to see what wonders the man can wield in this new field, in the same way that he had taken the fashion universe by storm. However, one has to be thankful that at the very least, Kenzo has taken that first step into the world of furnishing with K-3, and leaves behind his team, comprising longtime managing partner Jonathan Bouchet Manheim and creative assistant Engelbert Honorat, to carry on his legacy.