Paris Gathers for Tribute to Kenzo Takada

URBAN JUNGLE: “Dream, love and freedom” were Kenzo Takada’s favorite words and those he would want to be remembered by, said Ruth Obadia, Takada’s longtime publicist, close friend, and the organizer of an event on Tuesday where Paris dignitaries unveiled a plaque dedicated to the late designer, who died of COVID-19 in 2020.

Former colleagues, friends, executives and designers, including current Kenzo creative head Nigo and the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned brand’s chief executive officer Sylvain Blanc, braved the cold to honor Takada’s memory outside Galerie Vivienne, the site of Kenzo’s first boutique in the late ‘60s and his first fashion show in 1970.

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A duo of ceremonial Taiko drummers — an instrument the designer loved and used at a number of shows and events during his extensive career — opened the celebration, echoing down the wintry street, before speakers including Ariel Weil, mayor of Central Paris, and Inès de la Fressange spoke to the crowd of well-wishers.

Weil described how Takada had arrived in the neighborhood in the ‘60s as an immigrant, but had contributed to building the reputation of the city, and the area around his headquarters — he later moved to Place des Victoires just around the corner — as a hive for fashion as other creatives flocked to the-then downbeat neighborhood. “He wrote a chapter in Paris history, not just in fashion,” said Weil. “In the ‘60s, London was the flagship of fashion. Kenzo and his contemporaries made Paris its epicenter again.”

“He was among the designers who gave their letters of nobility to ready-to-wear, but he also had a new way of presenting fashion shows that subsequently inspired a lot of other designers, and he put atypical people on the runway,” said de la Fressange, who was a model for Kenzo. “People would fight to get tickets, and for the first time, even people from outside the fashion world wanted to attend.”

But most of all, she remembered him as the perfect gentleman. “Those who knew him well remember him not for his fashion, but for his human qualities.…He wasn’t just admired, he was loved,” she said. “Success did not change Kenzo’s attitude, he was modest, reserved, and he always wore a smile.”

“We were friends to the end,” said designer Adeline André. Her fondest memories, she said, were “his joie de vivre: he was natural, joyful.”

It was not just the fashion set that gathered to pay tribute. Among the crowd, French actor Pierre Richard accompanied his former model wife Ceyla Lacerda. “I got to know him and he was lovely, we miss him a lot,” said Richard. “It was important to be here today.”

Launch Gallery: Paris Gathers for Tribute to Kenzo Takada

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