The Japanese fashion designer who founded Kenzo has died from coronavirus today in a hospital near Paris.
Kenzo Takada, 81, died at the American hospital of Paris in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a spokesman for the fashion star confirmed.
The self-made Japanese and French designer is known worldwide under his first name Kenzo, which he shared with his fashion brand famed for colourful and eccentric designs.
His death comes just four days after the brand showed its spring/summer 2021 collection at Paris Fashion Week.
Despite leaving the brand in 1999 to enjoy a ‘permanent holiday’ of a retirement Kenzo was still involved in maintaining the brand’s seamless mix of traditional Japanese fashion and modern western style that it is famed for.
Kenzo, who was born on February 27, 1939, in Himeji, Japan, to hoteliers, developed his love for fashion at a young age while reading his sisters’ magazines.
After becoming one of the first male students to study at Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo he travelled to Paris for the first time in 1965 at the age of 26 to become a freelance designer.
He had only intended to stay in Paris for a few months before returning to Japan, but became determined to create a brand for himself as a designer.
Five years later, in the spring of 1970, Kenso used just $200 worth of fabric to create his first fashion collection which was mostly cotton to keep costs down.
The same year he took over a Paris boutique and had his clothing featured on the front cover of Elle magazine.
Kenzo opened his flagship store, Kenzo, in the Place des Victoires in October 1976 and was awarded the Fashion Editor Club of Japan’s prize.
He then continued to make a name for himself by holding his fashion shows in circus tents between 1978 and 1979.
The talented designer, whose designs often featured animal motives, famously ended the shows by riding onto the catwalk on an elephant.
As his fashion brand steadily grew in 1988 Kenzo delved into the perfume world, with scents that went on to be named some of the most ‘classic’ French fragrances of all time by Vogue.
Since 1993 the brand Kenzo has been owned by the French luxury goods company LMVH which also owns brands such as Fendi, Givenchy and Marc Jacobs.
He announced his retirement from fashion in 1999 to pursue a career in art, leaving designers Roy Krejberg and Gilles Rosier to handle the design of Kenzo’s men’s and women’s clothing.
Kenzo had previously written of his ‘misery’ following the 90s, a decade in which he lost his life partner Xavier de Castella to an aids related illness in 1990, and his ‘right hand’ pattern maker Atsuko Kondo in 1991 to a stroke.
This was swiftly followed by the death of his mother in 1991, which he failed to learn of until after her funeral as he was chartering a boat on the island of Corsica – despite his older brother’s efforts to contact him.
He wrote in Nikkei Asia: ‘I had missed my own mother’s death because I was off playing. I was miserable. My heart was in tatters and I gave myself up to despair.’
Kenzo was awarded a Legion of Honour (the highest order of merit for military and/or civil merits) in 2016. And he was then given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 55th Fashion Editors’ Club of Japan Awards in 2017.
He occasionally ventured back into the fashion world such as when he designed the costumes for Madame Butterfly in 2019.
In 2019, Takada discussed his departure from fashion design, telling CNN that he still sketches, but no longer for luxury fashion.
‘I’m still sketching, but not for fashion today. I like fashion, but in fashion you must do something new every season: new shootings, new concepts, new materials, every single thing changes so quickly,’ he said. ‘So I stopped at the right time, I think. Now I do costumes for opera.’
He added: ‘Paris for me, I definitely saw it as the capital of fashion and today there’s still that certain elegance, French elegance, a French way of dressing,’ he told the outlet.
‘A French way of working with fashion definitely influenced me and much later I started to blend other cultures into that specific fashion. Of course now, fashion is everywhere; in New York, Paris, Milan, London, Tokyo, everywhere. But I think Paris stays very important.’