Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, famously pally with the highest stratosphere of cool kids, could have picked any member of their circle, from Spike Jonze to Chloë Sevigny, to inspire their new Kenzo collection. Instead, they chose Steve Jobs. The patron saint of the mock turtleneck isn't mood-board material for most designers. But the Opening Ceremony pair's nose for the next has proven all but infallible in the past. For their Paris men's debut, it didn't disappoint.
"I was really inspired by Jobs," Leon explained. "Carol and I are children of the nineties, and we really feel that moment when the Internet became big is a big starting point for us, when young people started immediately making money, and companies around the world were starting to address the needs of this new kind of business. A lot of people who weren't part of the Internet boom at the beginning don't understand the power of the youth. When we look at the Kenzo man, he's of that generation."
Jobs wasn't, strictly speaking, an Internet boom-rider, and he was definitely not of the nineties generation. But the late Apple founder found a way to harness and brand the energy of youth and cool in ways that his compatriots didn't see. That's exactly what Leon and Lim have made their signature at Opening Ceremony.
Leon spoke of breaking Kenzo down to its basics before building it up, and there was much to this first men's outing that was basic. The building blocks of the Kenzo wardrobe are casual and affordable. Even tailoring, which the designers say is key to their message, is cut to be sporty. (Suit pants are shown with matching blousons as well as blazers.) Key codes from the work of founder Kenzo Takada are invoked—like the insistence on reversible garments, and the preponderance of bright colors and prints, including a medallion print adapted from the archives—but the look is purely the duo's own.
That may be a sticking point for the designers moving forward. Leon and Lim are tireless multitaskers whose output includes, in addition to the running of a global retail empire, the design of an Opening Ceremony house line, several collaborations a year, and now Kenzo. Shut one eye, and even with references to label history and a Parisian venue, you might mistake a Kenzo piece for an OC. Now at the helm of an historic label owned by a fashion-world power player, Leon and Lim may need in due course to clarify their new position relative to their existing ones.
But that's a quibble. As a new beginning for the label's menswear, this collection was playful, young, smart, and on trend. Like Jobs, Leon and Lim have a gift for streamlining their ideas into the most user-friendly of products—and making those products intensely desirable.