Surprise was the common reaction to the news this past July that
Opening Ceremony's Humberto Leon and Carol Lim were being appointed
creative directors of Kenzo. Of all the various hirings and firings, it
was one nobody could have predicted. Certainly Leon and Lim were known
to be many things: game-changing retailers, merchandisers par
excellence, curators of cool, creative collaborators extraordinaire,
and designers of their own rapidly growing private label, which now
sells to numerous stores. Heading up a Parisian house owned by LVMH,
however, is a different task.
But judging by their debut at today's infectiously energetic presentation, Leon and Lim may well be up to it. The pair staged a series of mini shows at the house's Rue Vivienne headquarters, around the corner from Kenzo's first Jungle Jap store. The event had the feel of a fashion happening. Leon and Lim's friends lent their talents for the occasion. Jason Schwartzman did the music, Spike Jonze acted as documentarian, and Chloë Sevigny closed the show in a royal blue taffeta jumpsuit and her Mona Lisa smile.
As for the rest, the overall assemblage was of rich primary color, texture, and blocked prints, not to mention loads of product in bright tubing: bracelets, mesh totes, fringed bucket bags, and visors. It felt just right, as did the youthful but not young sensibility. What struck you most was the sophisticated level of design, particularly since the label is being retooled to sell at the same sweet-spot price point as Alexander Wang. You can see it in everything from the flared-up back of an anorak to the wave-textured knits. And consider that every brightly hued taffeta piece in the last group is reversible.
Leon and Lim took a page from Kenzo Takada's book of merging his own culture with French fashion. "There's definitely a sense of America we want to bring to the brand," said Leon, citing as reference both the casual kit they favor for weekends in upstate New York and the schlocky-sweet seaside towns they visited while growing up. Like Takada, Leon and Lim's aim is to create their own vernacular, not an archival redux. Reactions at the presentation and afterward leaned toward raves. Meanwhile, Pierre-Yves Roussel, the LVMH executive who went through 30 candidates during the appointment process, smiled broadly. His takeaway: "It was exactly what we wanted."