Kenzo Takada 1939 – 2020

Kenzo Takada

Kenzo Takada was born in Himeji, Japan, on Feb. 27, 1939.  After leaving university where he was studying literature he enrolled at the Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo. 

In 1960, Kenzo won a prize from Soen magazine and began his fashion career designing girl’s clothing for the Sanai department store. In 1964 he received ten months of rent in compensation for being evicted from his apartment block which was to be torn down for the Tokyo Olympics. With that money he travelled to Paris where he restarted his fashion career freelancing – selling sketches to designers.

In 1970 he opened a boutique called Jungle Jap (he wanted to overshadow the pejorative meaning with a positive spin). The walls of his boutique were painted in wild floral patterns and his first collection used kimono fabrics and folk wear influences from around the world in an East meets West aesthetic. In 1976 he renamed his business Kenzo. In 1977 Jerry Hall and Grace Jones were among the models who appeared in a fashion show of his clothes at Studio 54 in New York.

A men’s wear line was introduced in 1983, a jeans line followed in 1986 and in 1988, a perfume was created. Things were going well until 1993 when his life partner died and his business partner had a stroke. Kenzo sold his company to LVMH that year for approximately 80 million U.S. but stayed on as designer. In October 1999 he decided to step away from the fashion industry due to the frenetic pace and unrealistic demands ““Everything has changed, from the way we make clothes to the way information spreads and how many seasons there are now,” he complained to The South China Morning Post. The label is currently under the creative direction of Felipe Oliveira Baptista.

Kenzo focused on his art for the next 20 years, until January 2020 when he launched a lifestyle brand called K3. He died from complications from COVID-19 on October 4 at the age of 81. 

2 thoughts on “Kenzo Takada 1939 – 2020

  1. I’m trying to work out what it was with the “Jungle Jap” label – it was clearly around for quite a few years after 1976, which is the date several people give for the label being renamed. While at the V&A I catalogued quite a few fully provenanced early 1980s garments that had Jungle Jap labels in them. Kenzo also had a “Kenzo Jungle” label that ran into the 90s, so I wonder whether the date 1976 might be an attempt to fudge the issue and suggest that they changed the label name quite a few years before they actually did. Maybe they just changed the name of the boutique but kept using the label into the early 80s.

    • I think it was his business that was renamed in 1976, but the label went on – perhaps as a cheaper line than Kenzo?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.