January 10, 2013 Florence
They spun a myth about sky-bound gods and goddesses and the mortal pilots whose line of duty sent them into the ether, and called the offering The Jungle of the Sky. Jungle has loomed large over Kenzo as Leon and Lim have rebranded it, taking Kenzo Takada's original seventies concept of Jungle Jap and putting animal prints, tiger heads, and a safari-ized version of street wear front and center. Here, they veered. "We wanted to identify with the romantic side of Kenzo, and show a different side of Kenzo Takada that really for us feels like another part of the story that we should be telling," said Leon. Cumulus-cloud prints—abstracted, in some instances, into quasi-camo—took the place of leopard spot and tiger stripe; the warm, tropical colors of seasons past (all on view at the pop-up shop the savvy retailers set up on the fairgrounds, with wares exclusive to Pitti) had been replaced by icy sky blue, deep red, and black.
The new silhouette was superheroic: larger on top, with round-shouldered sweaters and spongy, A-line coats, tapered and fitted pants below. The new fabrics, 80 percent of which were developed for the collection, emphasized technical nylon, giving pieces a future-world sheen. "When we were thinking about these warriors and goddesses, they were all kind of powerful feeling, and the shapes gave us that," Leon said. Power and protection were the messages, too, of the bulletproof-looking backpacks designed in collaboration with the hard-shell manufacturer Boblbee. Even the jewelry and fixings designed by pal Delfina Delettrez—button coverings, metal pocket squares meant to be tucked away—signaled defense.
Are these fighter pilots caught in a bad romance? Hard to say. The step—or ascent—in a new direction is, itself, deserving of praise, and perhaps more to the point, the show abounded with items easy to buy and sure to sell. But the will to power, though applauded by some, cost some of the sense of fun that has distinguished Lim and Leon's tenure at Kenzo. Despite the pair's rhapsodizing about the Florentine food market, and the community-building power of eating together, the collection, as much as the venue, was dogged by a persistent chill. And wouldn't you know it, there were Kenzo-logo blankets and hot water bottles keeping place at every seat.