Kenzo returns at 80 with own design brand

Kenzo, flanked by his assistants (from left) Jonathan Bouchet Manheim, Wanda Jelmini and Engelbert Honorat, launched K3, an interior design brand whose logo is written in Japanese with three horizontal strokes.
Kenzo, flanked by his assistants (from left) Jonathan Bouchet Manheim, Wanda Jelmini and Engelbert Honorat, launched K3, an interior design brand whose logo is written in Japanese with three horizontal strokes. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS • He could be sipping cocktails in his silk slippers yet fashion legend Kenzo is back at the age of 80.

But the Japanese creator is not diving back into the frenzied world of catwalk shows.

Instead, he was set to throw himself into the more sedate world of interior design last Friday by launching a brand called K3.

Kenzo sold his hugely successful clothing and perfume label - and the right to use his name - to luxury giant LVMH in 1993, and left fashion six years later.

Since then, he has collaborated on a number of different projects, but said he missed the buzz of working for his own brand.

"Twenty years ago, I wanted to travel and I didn't want to work anymore," said the pioneering designer, who had made his breakthrough in the Paris scene in the early 1970s.

But for his comeback, he wanted to do something more "timeless" than clothes. He came up with K3, whose logo is written in Japanese with three horizontal strokes.

By doing interior design, Kenzo would not be tied to the infernal fashion rhythm of at least four shows a year.

"With clothes, you always have to be in the collections, it needs more organisation, workshops and all that.

"I don't want to work like that anymore," he said in his large luminous studio in the centre of Paris.

Design is "really about the art of living," he added.

 
 

The first of the furniture, carpets, wallpaper, ceramics, household linen and bathrooms designed by Kenzo were presented last Friday at a Parisian home show, and in a new K3 boutique in the French capital on the same day.

All his creations carry a "kintsugi" symbol in honour of the Japanese art of repairing broken porcelain and ceramics with lacquer that is mixed with powdered gold.

For Kenzo, this technique from the 15th century "makes the object even more beautiful" and fits perfectly with the contemporary concern of recycling.

His creative assistant Engelbert Honorat said the technique embodies "the Japanese art of honouring something while remaining simple".

The collection is organised around three themes, Kenzo said.

His Shogun items, which represent masculinity, are sober and solemn, dominated by black and white.

Sakura is about harmony and calm, and includes a few gold notes in its subtle pastel palette.

The Maiko range is in vivid red and pink, paying tribute to the kimonos and make-up of young geishas, he said.

 
 

One of the pieces that stand out in Kenzo's first collection is a low-rimmed table with a hole in the middle, which can be filled with water for various uses.

Petals can be left to float on the surface or it can be used as a vase in a tribute to the Japanese art of flower arrangement, ikebana, said Kenzo.

"Our ideal interior is one of comfort, which tempts you to stay inside. I like something that is soft and poetic, not aggressive.

"I like dreaming," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2020, with the headline 'Kenzo returns at 80 with own design brand'. Print Edition | Subscribe