For those who made their way to the Maison du Judo in the Avenue de la Porte de Châtillon in Paris’ 14e arrondissement to watch the runway show for Kenzo’s Spring/Summer 2013 menswear collection, it was clear that the decision to use such a remote location to stage the event was symptomatic of the label’s future creative and business strategic positioning. Not only did the vast indoors sports arena accommodate a large audience on its tiered seating levels but the sportive atmosphere of martial arts also, and adroitly, mirrored the appreciation for Asian culture and relaxed tailoring with which Kenzo’s creative directors Humberto Leon and Carol Lim have been infusing their collections.
Furthermore, with its relatively isolated location in the south of the French capital, the venue was a literal and metaphorical far cry from the metropolitan sophistication that Antonio Marras used to treasure (and apply with great success in his collections, one might add) when he was at the helm of the fashion house’s creations until a year ago. In other words, the conscious move to have the Maison du Judo as the setting for Kenzo’s latest menswear display indicated that the brand’s aesthetic is moving further away from the sartorial tastes of adult males who favour sophisticated elegance in its classic sense; instead, the brand has decided to appeal to a younger generation of consumers attracted to the vibrant looks and rebellious mores of urban subcultures that are normally relegated to exist on the fringes of the city and its high-brow manifestations of culture and taste.
Inside the Maison du Judo, the audience waited for the show in an ambience that attempted to capture the concept of the urban jungle by resorting to sounds made by tropical rainforest animals. The runway show was preceded by a spectacular parkour display by agile traceurs who impressed with their jumps and back-flips and garnered loud applause. After this introduction, 40 models paraded around nine square stages created by stacked yellow tatami mats on the red floor before finishing their parade by standing on them. At this stage, the homage to Kenzo’s original ‘Jungle Jap’ store (founded in 1970) and the inspiration that Leon and Lim found on a trip to south-east Asia started becoming very evident.
The collection’s palette mixed creams and beiges with seductive emerald, moss green, mustard, vivid blues and shades of brown across impeccably tailored and structured garments made of cotton and silk fabrics. The diversity of looks was explored throughout an assorted sartorial gamut that included suits, wide pleated trousers, boxy shorts, biker jackets, blousons and varsity jackets, embroidered sweatshirts, and stunning footwear. Highly seductive pixilated prints alternated with colour blocks, abstract interpretations of camouflage designs, and more conventional stripes and checks juxtaposed in panelling formats. Details such as utilitarian buttoning and fastening inspired by hiking and sailing contrasted with tailored formal wear and pleated shorts with elegant trims. And to confirm that Leon and Lim are resolute about bringing change to Kenzo, the occasional angular slivers of contrasting fabrics on the elbows of jackets served as a subtle reminder of the regenerative power that wild and primitive nature can have when it rips through the surface of civilised veneer.