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Kenzō Takada in June 2008
|Alma mater||Bunka Fashion College|
|Known for||Founder of Kenzo|
|Partner(s)||Xavier de Castella|
|Awards||Ordre des Arts et des Lettres|
Kenzō Takada (高田 賢三 Takada Kenzō) is a Japanese-French fashion designer. He is also the founder of Kenzo, a worldwide brand of perfumes, skincare products and clothes, and is the acting Honorary President of the Asian Couture Federation.
Takada was born February 27, 1939 in Himeji, Hyōgo Prefecture, to parents who ran a hotel. His love for fashion developed at an early age, particularly through reading his sisters' magazines. He briefly attended Kobe City University of Foreign Studies, but after his father died during Takada's first year at university, he withdrew from the program against his family's wishes. In 1958, he enrolled at Tokyo's Bunka Fashion College, which had then just opened its doors to male students. During his time at Bunka, Takada won a fashion design competition, the Soen Award, in 1961.:122 At this time, Takada gained experience working in a department store.
Takada was inspired by Paris, especially designer Yves Saint Laurent. His interest in Paris was further fostered by his teacher at Bunka, Chie Koike, who was educated at L'École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne.:113:142 In preparation for the 1964 Summer Olympics, the government demolished Takada's apartment in 1964, providing him with some monetary compensation. Under the advice of his mentor, and using his compensation money, Takada spent a month traveling to various cities such as Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, Mumbai, and Marseille. He ultimately settled in Paris, arriving at the Gare de Lyon train station on January 1, 1965. Takada's first impression of Paris was that it was "dismal and bleak", but began to warm up to the city when his taxi took him past the Notre Dame de Paris, which he described as "magnificent".
Takada initially struggled in Paris, selling sketches of designs to fashion houses for 25 F each. He had intended to leave Paris for Japan after a few months, but vowed not to do so until he had created something there, as Takada was determined to open a boutique fashion house in an area where his peers had not opened one. During this time, he worked as a stylist at a textile manufacturer called Pisanti.:142
In 1970, while at a flea market, Takada met a woman who wanted to rent out a small space in the Galerie Vivienne to him for cheap. Takada accepted the offer, and opened up shop as a designer. With very little money to work with, he mixed and matched $200 in fabrics from the Saint Pierre market in Montmartre, creating an eclectic and bold first fashion collection. Takada presented the collection at his first fashion show at the Galerie Vivienne. With no money to afford professional fashion models for the event, Takada and his friends opted to paint the pimples of an acne-covered model green.
Inspired by painter Henri Rousseau, and in particular The Dream, Takada painted the interior of his shop with a jungle-like floral aesthetic. Wanting to combine the jungle aesthetic with his homeland, the designer decided to name his first store "Jungle Jap". The store's name did not go without controversy: in 1971, the Japanese American Citizens League issued a summons to Takada while on his first visit to the United States, challenging him to remove the word "Jap" from his business's name. However, the State supreme court upheld the ability to use the term as part of a trademark the following year. Takada and his team opted to rename the brand once Takada returned to France.
Takada's efforts paid off quickly – in June 1970, Elle featured one of his designs on its cover.:117 He moved locations from the Galerie Vivienne to the Passage Choiseul in 1970. Takada's collection was presented in New York City and Tokyo in 1971. The next year, he won the Fashion Editor Club of Japan's prize. In October 1976, Takada opened his flagship store, Kenzo, in the Place des Victoires. Takada proved his sense of dramatic appearance when, in 1978 and 1979, he held his shows in a circus tent, finishing with horsewomen performers wearing transparent uniforms and he himself riding an elephant. Takada even had the chance to direct a film called Yume, yume no ato, which was released in 1981.
Takada's first men's collection was launched in 1983. In August 1984, The Limited Stores announced that they had signed Takada to design a less-expensive clothing line called Album by Kenzo. A children's line called Kenzo Jungle, as well as men's and women's jeans, was released in 1986.
Takada had also made ventures into the perfume business. He first experimented with perfumes by releasing King Kong in 1980, which he created "just for fun". In 1988, his women's perfume line began with Kenzo de Kenzo (now known as Ça Sent Beau), Parfum d'été, Le monde est beau and L'eau par Kenzo. Kenzo pour Homme was his first men's perfume (1991). FlowerbyKenzo, launched in 2000, was listed by Vogue's website as one of the best classic French perfumes of all time. In 2001, a skincare line, KenzoKI was also launched.
Since 1993 the brand Kenzo is owned by the French luxury goods company LVMH. In 2016, he designed a perfume for Avon.
Takada announced his retirement in 1999 to pursue a career in art, leaving his assistants in charge of his fashion house. However, in 2005 he reappeared as a decoration designer presenting Gokan Kobo (五感工房 "workshop of the five senses"), a brand of tableware, home objects and furniture. After a few years off, he wanted to take a new direction, stating "when I stopped working five years ago, I went on vacation, I rested, I traveled. And when I decided to work again, I told myself it would be in decoration, more than fashion." Additionally, in 2013 Kenzo joined the Asian Couture Federation as the organisation's inaugural Honorary President.
Takada was in a relationship with Xavier de Castella, who died in 1990 from AIDS. De Castella helped design Takada's 14,000-sq-ft Japanese-style house, which started construction in 1987 and was completed in 1993.
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