Kenzo is finding its sweet spot. For Spring, still-new designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim—Americans in Paris who started the internationally adored shop Opening Ceremony—tapped into the great and gushy fondness they harbor for the two countries they now call home. "It's an unapologetic embrace of America and France," said Leon, whose partner was absent today, unable to board a plane due to her own happy circumstances. "It's also about the historic relationship between the two," he added, "as well as that sense of wonder when a tourist goes to a place like New York or Paris for the first time."
It would have been très, très bon if the weather had cooperated, given that the show was held outdoors in a nook overlooking the Seine. Alas, the forecast insisted on a sullen drizzle, in high contrast to the sunny disposition that emanated from the clothes. Models walked briskly, so as to beat a sudden downpour, in a charm offensive whose highlights included macaroon-colored outerwear, scooter-ready parkas, tanks and tees in dueling bright stripes, body-cocooning canvas coats awash in modified nautical stripes, and matching polka-dot shirts and pants. Bags were square-in-circle zippered clutches overtly referencing the famed French architect Le Corbusier—probably too adorable, and mod-like, for many men to actually tote around come spring. The clothes had more than enough prep appeal to make up for it.
We've seen some excellent intarsia pieces this season, but few as excellent as those at Kenzo. The optical-knit technique—whereby various yarns are used to create a seamless patchwork of colors and recognizable shapes—was employed to re-create familiar images on sweaters of the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, and Les Misérables' poster girl, Cosette. The show invitation was an enormous key ring clanging with little plastic Eiffel Towers, an unabashedly garish reminder of kitschy souvenir shops. It was also a reminder that the Kenzo designers are still able to view Paris with the touristy sense of wonder Leon spoke about, and that perspective is leading to great results.