THE WHITE ALBUM: a dynamic wardrobe composed across cultures, eras and styles. For the KENZO Fall-Winter 2023 Women’s and Men’s Show, Artistic Director Nigo elaborates on both the similarities and differences between his own world and the legacy of Kenzo Takada. The collection is simultaneously an exploration of his longstanding fascination with the interaction between British, American and Japanese street culture. Refining his overarching vision for the Maison, the collection builds on the archival backbone of his practice while introducing influences close to his own heart. In the Salle Pleyel, the 1966 Quartet plays string renditions of The Beatles in a reflection of the genre-spanning eclecticism of a collection that begins in the Swinging Sixties. A foundational era for Nigo, who was born in 1970, a vast part of his extensive archives of vintage clothes are devoted to the rocker and mod wardrobes of the time. The spirit evolves into a study of Great British country attire expressed in a collaboration with Hunter. It inevitably echoes the legacy of Dame Vivienne Westwood, whose influence has been a constant in the career of Nigo. The formative elements are infused with the joie de vivre of Kenzo Takada’s work in the 1980s and underpinned by the conversation between traditional Japanese construction and authentic American workwear that supports Nigo’s structural framework at KENZO.
Tailoring spans the 1960s youth-adapted suiting silhouette of mod exemplified in collarless tunic jackets, tapered trousers and mini-skirts, in a generous 1980s suiting shape reflective of Kenzo Takada as well as the decade’s b-boy culture, and in traditional Japanese constructions. Here, Nigo blends Western grammar with the language of the Japanese martial arts wardrobe, a dialogue also evoked in the workwear silhouette. Derived from that of samurai, the uniform of kendo – in which Nigo took obligatory lessons in school – inspires Y-shaped jacket
closures and voluminous box-pleat hakama skirts interpreted in Japanese denim. It echoes a kilt silhouette native to Great Britain, whose heritage country wardrobe unravels in outdoor-centric archetypes created in collaboration with Hunter, with nods to American workwear. Tiered and ruffled slip dresses pay homage to the 1980s shapes of Kenzo Takada.
Themes and motifs
Through his Eastern/Western lens, Nigo reworks a number of archival KENZO prints for the collection. Dazzle Stripes, a broken-stripe motif from the 1980s, is given a punkish undertone likewise reflected in checks and tartans as well a micro-floral Flower Stripe and a Baton Stripe. In homage to the Land of the Rose, a KENZO Roses print adapted from the archive appears alongside an Archive Floral collage motif and a Kimono Camo composed of vases, fruits and leaves. The Boke flower emblematic of Nigo’s collections for the Maison is reinterpreted with a KENZO Target graphic and a Flower Target print in tribute to the iconography of The Who. Drawing on the Boke, an abstracted Teddy Flower riffs on Eastern ikat motifs. A Tiger Badge depicting a tiger in a jungle setting features as large-scale emblems. Varsity graphics, travel badges and animal graphics feature throughout, along with motifs of goldfish – a Japanese symbol of good fortune.
Materials and techniques
A Japanese quilting technique, sashiko – also known as rice-grain fabric – is traditionally employed in kendo uniforms and engrained in the KENZO archives. Nigo draws on the technique in the development of new fabric expressions across nylon, denim, wool bases, knitwear and jersey. Balanced by British, Scottish and Italian wools, jacquards and fil coupé appear alongside a multitude of velvets, from the fluidly sophisticated to subversive devoré and heritage corduroy. A 1970s leather jacket from the archives inspires patchwork shearling suede pieces founded in American military tropes. Denim replicates the washes of worn original KENZO Jeans from the 1980s and ‘90s, with certain pieces adorning the back of the cloth in print as the outer surface, enabling a reverse reveal effect when hems are rolled up. Knitwear weaves Irish Donegal tweed into sporty cable sweaters, while the KENZO fair isle expands in a 3D-knitted multicolour lurex-threaded manifestation.
Bags and shoes
Inspired by a previous KENZO adaptation from the 1980s, the sporran bag native to Scottish dress is re-interpreted for the collection. Its tassels filter into soft hobo bags in cotton and linen likewise used in the Rue Vivienne Satchel. A reversible Kinchaku pouch celebrates the traditional kimono pouch across a variety of shapes, while a large kit bag is founded in those used by kendo practitioners but morphed with the language of 1980s sports bags. The collection’s shoe proposal is characterised by the KENZO Clog created with a wood wedge and adorned with flowers. The KENZO Western is an ankle boot rooted in authentic cowboy boots, a celebration of American archetypes likewise reflected in Tyrolean and steel-toe work boots.
A new skate sneaker takes inspiration from Nigo’s memories of the dress codes practiced in skateboarding culture in the late 1990s: lowered in height and broadened in width, the slightly padded sneaker sits on a gum sole for a voluminous effect. Rendered in the pastels of a teenage universe, it serves as an homage to the spirit of youth and the community Nigo calls home. The collection likewise debuts a new running shoe rooted in the construction and properties of authentic running shoes. Created from tech materials and the sole used in performance-wear, the runner reflects the realness that fuels Nigo’s design philosophy.
Hats take inspiration from the eclectic influences that underpin the collection. Deerstalkers – also interpreted in hybrid caps – pay tribute to Great Britain while shapkas, bob hats and supersized collapsible berets play with the codes of archetypes. A happy prototyping accident, knitted hats with fringed mohawks hint at a punk silhouette. Belts with retro 3D logo buckles imitate mod graphics, while big square nameplate buckles evoke the hip-hop heyday. The tribute is reflected in rope-like metal necklaces and in oversized necklaces with K for KENZO hood ornament pendants.
Production by Back of the House
Show music by 1966 Quartet
Content production by Kitten
Styling by Marq Rise
Casting by Samuel Ellis Scheinman for DM CASTING
Make up by Lucy Bridge and the Make Up For Ever team
Hair by Anthony Turner using Dyson
Nails by Ama Quashie