Fashion history is slowly being written in a neat white atelier located in Paris’s 2nd arrondissement. Contrary to the fashion scenes that are often shown on films, featuring chaotic haywire and a riot of chaos however, this Kenzo shop is extremely calm. There’s no arguing and no huge cup of tea, and there’s not any music on the background. Thanks to Nigo who is the brand’s 51 year old creative director, who is working on his first women’s and men’s collections and for the positive, relaxed impressions. If we talk on Zoom this Thursday he’s wearing an oversized denim trucker jacket his trademark cap, two masks for his face as well as a massive silver ring. He speaks clearly and firmly through his translator , and smiling – that I only can see by the slight glimmer on his face. Despite the language barrier and technological obstacles in between, the confidence is evident. This is a person who is confident that he’s making correct decisions.
Nigo’s new position as the new CEO of Kenzo the brand that was founded by Kenzo Takada in the year 1970 Nigo is one of the few Japanese designer to lead the brand since Kenzo-san’s time was the first, and also one of the two Asian creative directors working at European luxury brands. (The other is the Filipino-American Rhuigi Villasenor who was named at Bally just a few days ago.) The obvious connection with Takada Nigo and Takada Nigo is their common heritage They both grew-up in Japan and went to Bunka Fashion Institute in Tokyo and adopted an international perspective on fashion. However, the actual connection is more subtle. In essence, they are both rebels against the status quo of fashion.
When Takada created his own brand in Paris in the year 1970, the year in which Nigo was created, he introduced the West an exciting new style of dressing that combined Eastern aesthetics, colors, and fabrics with Western fashions. Nigo has thrown a wrench into fashion in a similar way but without ever putting on any fashion shows. His label A Bathing Ape, founded in 1993, was among the first brands that truly had a global appeal that brought camo images and shooter sneakers across Tokyo all the way to New York, Paris, Los Angeles, and beyond. Nigo was at the forefront of the hypebeast scene however his influence goes beyond the streets. Pharrell Williams is among his closest friends and the fashion icons of today such as Virgil Abloh worshipped Nigo, and following his footsteps.
“The fact that somebody like me with my background can now be in this role is kind of surprising,” Nigo says Nigo by way of his translator. “It is a sign how that things are changing rapidly . Fashion has seen a significant change in the last few years. It’s no longer sufficient for an individual designer to create good clothing. They need to be able to communicate on a higher connection with their customers. Just as this resurgence of Paris traditional fashion industry took place in the 70s with individuals like Kenzo-san originating from the outside of the center and then moving towards the middle and now that everything is global, there’s still room for people to innovate and develop innovative ways of working that transform the entire industry.”
The way he approaches Kenzo Kenzo is an unorthodox rethinking of fashion, luxury and streetwear. It’s might be quite different from what one would expect from a streetwear famous. In response to questions about the distinction between luxury and streetwear, Kenzo gives his most lengthy and complex answer. “From my point of view streetwear began as an act of rebellion against traditional fashion or the luxury. It was counterculture, similar to an underground movement” he claims. “I believe people have forgotten that it’s popular enough that it’s becoming the norm and streetwear, in the realm of normal fashion, seems as non-design. It’s the production of clothes that doesn’t need the talents of designers.”
He adds, “There are quite a number of brands that are making things that I believe to be in the style of streetwear but aren’t truly streetwear. I’m not sure if it’s more exciting the luxury brand to focus on their experience and build luxurious products or if it’s the blend of those items – something you can consider doing in the opposite direction that remains an interesting option to consider. I am conflicted between the desire for luxury brand to focus on being authentic to the luxury and street brands to be presented by people who are aware of the culture, and having the opportunity to blend both and enjoy the process.”
So instead of coming up with an assortment that is clearly extravagant or exclusive, Nigo is taking a different route. He’s starting from when the brand was first introduced to Kenzo’s story. Kenzo story. “Seeing the complete Kenzo archive, especially the early pieces from the ’70s, has kind of changed my perception about the entirety of the brand,” Nigo declares. “Previously my perception of it was based very much in the 1980s designer fashion boom that I experienced when I was young in Japan.” The archives of the brand there were pieces that previously unheard of previously, which is unusual for someone with a knowledge of fashion the past and fashion like Nigo.