Who was Kenzo Takada and why are people mourning his death?

The pioneer in Japanese-European fusion fashion died on Oct 4, aged 81 years old.

Jeremy Na
Jeremy Na

Just like that Khalid song, Young, dumb and broke. Ok maybe not dumb but definitely the other two.

Published: 8 October 2020, 1:38 PM

On Oct 4, Kenzo Takada passed away from complications due to COVID-19 at the age of 81. 

A spokeswoman for the founder of high-end fashion brand Kenzo stated that he had been ill for the past weeks.

While many young Singaporeans may be familiar with his fashion house KENZO, not many know much about the man himself.

Famous for his merging of Japanese influences and high-end European fashion, Takada was revered by many as a pioneer in his industry. 

His unique look of ready-to-wear aesthetic, inspired by the jungle scenes of painter Henri Rousseau which he merged with Asian styles, became iconic. 

What really put him on the map however, was Vogue featuring his style after being the first to utilise shoulder forms, large armholes, dungarees, smock tent dresses and innovative shoulder shapes in his designs.

Kenzo Sketches
Kenzo Takada’s use of innovative designs defined his career. IMAGE CREDIT: KENZO TAKADA

Kenzo, who burst onto the Paris fashion scene in 1970, came from an extremely humble background.

Born to hoteliers Kenji and Shizu Takada in Himeji, Japan, Kenzo was one of seven children in the family. After reading one of his sister’s fashion magazines, his passion for design grew and led him to try his hand at pursuing a career in fashion.

Yet things could have easily turned out differently. His parents did not approve of his choice, which resulted in Takada studying literature before finally dropping out and becoming one of the first male students at Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo.

His life changed when his apartment was torn down in preparation for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. He was given compensation money, but instead of using that to purchase another house, he instead opted to travel to France to try his hand at fashion there.

In Paris, Takada was faced with the daunting task of standing out amongst well established European powerhouses. This forced him to innovate and resulted in him paving the way for fusion Japanese-European fashion designers. 

“When I opened my shop, I thought there was no point in me doing what French designers were doing, because I couldn’t do that. So I did things my own way in order to be different, and I used kimono fabrics and other influences,” said Takada in 2019.

Kenzo model walkway
Kenzo Takada’s walkway shows were known for its light and fun theatrics

This unique style landed him on the cover of major fashion magazines such as Elle and American Vogue which skyrocketed his popularity in the fashion world and transformed his brand into the luxury fashion house it is today.

It’s almost symbolic how Takada, who redefined the Paris fashion scene, passed away in the midst of a struggling Paris Fashion Week hit hard by the same virus.

Dannon Low, a 19-year-old design student in Singapore Polytechnic stated that the passing of Kenzo Takada was definitely a loss for the fashion world and industry.

He said: “He was a prominent designer. I knew of his rapport in the fashion industry, with me and many other designers looking up to his works.”

Takada’s work in the fashion industry has helped paved the way for fusion fashion across the world. Truly a colourful life for a colourful man.

You may like these