Humberto Leon and Carol Lim spent their first few seasons settling into Kenzo by mining the inspirations of the house's founder and namesake, the jungle motifs that inspired his seventies Jungle Jap collections, and in the process, filling city streets with more tiger-face logo sweatshirts than would have seemed possible. That they showed their new collection at a circus-training academy on the outskirts of Paris suggested more beasts might be in the mix. But actually, Leon said before their show, "Carol and I really wanted to go back to us, and everything we grew up with." They're from SoCal's dueling valleys—the San Fernando (her) and the San Gabriel (him)—and wanted, Lim added, "California ease." The Kenzo logo sweatshirt now is etched with a print of a crashing wave. To put it bluntly, in the terms of their countrymen: Everybody goin' surfing—and if this clarification were even necessary—surfing U.S.A.!
"We're really feeling our Americanness," Leon said. It's a quality that's at once specific and ubiquitous, American culture being a global export. It was less that the collection had a specific national character as that it felt more personal and more comfortable for the designers, relative to the stiffness of some of their more theoretical capital-F fashion outings. It wasn't tricky. Pants were wider, cut off or dragging slightly, in Cali surf 'n' skate style, T-shirts in neoprene were worn ragged and unhemmed, like cut-off wetsuits. Yet it had a sporty, streetwise flair. The graphics, always a Kenzo standout, were great here: scratchy hand-drawn waves (shades of Raymond Pettibon) and scribbled lingo ("freakout!") that suited the mood.
It was young, messy, and uncomplicated—if not always the expectation of an LVMH maison, more and more a key component of Kenzo's success. The company's chief talent scout, Pierre-Yves Roussel, was beaming in attendance, and he'd brought along his teenage son, wearing a Kenzo sweatshirt he likely didn't need to be talked into. There've been plenty of other examples on the streets and in the stands this fashion week. That figures. "Almost every Parisian we've met," Leon said, "wants to move to L.A."