"Joie de vivre" — those three words sum up the essence of Kenzo Takada, which you'll find in the pages of the eponymous new book chronicling the Japanese designer’s trailblazing fashion career. Published by ACC Art Books, the tome paints a vivid picture of Takada’s life in Paris through hundreds of his fashion sketches, photographs and letters to his mother. Below, the designer tells us how it all finally came together on paper.
What made you decide to release a book of your works?
The book was Kazuko Masui’s idea! To be honest, at first, I would have never imagined that anyone would be interested in seeing my sketches.
How did you end up working with Kazuko Masui on it?
Kazuko Masui was a foreign correspondent for a Japanese women’s magazine and the author of various fashion and gastronomy books. Shortly after I moved to Paris, she became a close friend. In 1989, she initiated my exhibition, Kenzo-Liberté, in Tokyo and my hometown Himéji. When I sold the brand in 1993, she was keen on me to publish a book of my archives. Together, we continued with this idea and created a tribute book of my sketches in 1999. It was heartbreaking for me to complete this project just after she passed away. I finished it with her lovely daughter, Chihiro Masui, and nothing would have been possible without them. It took effort and time, but it was worth it and I am proud of our work together.
What can you tell us about the cover that you designed for the book?
My designs are always colourful and graphic. I want them to be joyful, and it is important for me to transmit as much positivity as possible. The flowers are an important aspect to my identity; they were a symbol of my label. We chose this cover because it perfectly reflects my style.
The book includes some of the 7,800 fashion sketches you’ve done throughout your career. What was the selection process like?
It was difficult to sort through the many sketches and narrow them down to 300. I organised them into chronological order and chose the ones that represented the identity of the brand.
There is a section dedicated to “The Wedding Dress” from the AW83 show. What made you feature that particular creation?
I decided to feature it because the story behind it was unexpected and quite funny. I was so focused on the collection that I did not realize that I was very short on fabric to create the final piece, and I did not have enough time to order more. Luckily, for over 20 years, I had collected ribbons from all around the world, so I figured I should make use of them to create the wedding dress! We worked two days and two nights to finalize it on time for the show, it was crazy!
What did you enjoy the most about putting together the book?
Each sketch reminded me of individual moments of joy, hope and sometimes pain. I enjoyed the memories this book brought back to me because I retraced all the steps of my career, from the difficult start to where I am now.
Looking back, what are your favourite moments from your career?
I would say the ’70s is the era that I miss the most in fashion. It was right after the hippie’s era when anything was possible, and we had that certain freedom to create anything. A lot of colours, a lot of imagination... It was a little crazy from time to time but so much fun. One of my favourite moments is probably the reopening of the Studio 54 in New York. It was a crazy party and I think that some people still consider it as one of the greatest shows in fashion history. Grace Jones was singing for the event. It was a time when I was seeing a lot of artists, personalities and fashion designers like Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger, Karl Lagerfeld, Antonio Lopez and Yves Saint Laurent.
Do you ever find yourself missing creating clothes?
I like what I do today. Fashion is a pretty complex process and I have worked in it for so many years. I am just curious of where it is heading, and what will the technology bring to the table next.
What do you think about fashion today?
The fashion environment is changing very fast now. With the Internet, the market has opened to new opportunities and fashion is now more accessible for everyone around the world. This is very exciting! I also like the fact that everybody can have an interest in fashion despite the scale of price in which it lies. Today, style has more of an importance in people’s mindsets, which was less of the case in the ’60s.
What are you currently working on?
In the past two years, I have been quite busy partaking in several projects around the world in various industries and working with different companies ranging from furniture design to consumer product design. I just finished a curtain for the Himeji Cultural Centre in Japan and I will hopefully be announcing new projects on a global scale in the coming months!