The story of how Kenzo Takada came from Tokyo to Paris in the sixties, opening up a dialogue between the two cities that has been one of the most influential in fashion, will be repeated often this year as the company he founded celebrates its 40th anniversary. For Kenzo's new men's collection, creative director Antonio Marras imagined a journey in the other direction: a French artist traveling to Tokyo for the first time and absorbing the intricacies of Japanese culture into his own style. Given Marras' knack for storytelling, it was a perfect match of designer and inspiration. Without ever veering into archness or costume, he created a wardrobe that had enough idiosyncratic flourish to subtly appeal to any man's latent dandy.
At first, he dressed his artist in jackets, pants, and tops in the Mediterranean blue-white-and-stripes story that's emerging as one of the season's most appealing trends. After that, he transported him to the Far East, where artisanal weaving, crocheting, quilting, and dyeing techniques added new depth to familiar Western items. It was striking in a suit transformed by splodges of Japanese watercolor (whether ink, bleach, or paint, that splodge story is another theme for Spring 2011), in outerwear lightly quilted and layered, and in the tone-on-tone use of intense color.
A handful of distinctive women, including actress Joana Preiss and model Hannelore Knuts, walked in the show wearing clothes from the men's collection. Marras asked them to choose their own outfits because he wanted to show how pieces designed for a man's body could still look great on women. "That's the freedom of Kenzo, the breaking of rules," he said.