Kenzo Takada

Matt Dougherty  • August 25, 2017
Kenzo Takada

A number of fashion designers have made the shift to hospitality throughout their careers, but none with a legacy quite like Kenzo Takada’s. Breaking boundaries for over half a century, Takada was among the first men in Japan to study fashion, attending Tokyo’s Bunka Fashion College (originally only open to women) in 1958, much to his father’s dismay. “It was not well seen for men to study fashion,” he says. However, Takada persevered. At the age of 25, he made the journey via boat to Paris with the hopes of making a career in fashion. A few short years later in 1970, that dream came true when he opened his Jungle Jap boutique, where his bold prints and designs attracted the attention of many, including Vogue. That would soon evolve into a men’s collection, a line of fragrances, and eventually, his acclaimed namesake fashion house. So successful, in fact, that in the early ’90s he sold his company to LVMH and announced his retirement in 1999. “I’m very lucky,” he says. “I began at a good time.”

Now at the age of 78, the visionary has reemerged into the design world, this time setting his sights on products, a concept brought to life through a partnership with French furniture company Roche Bobois. “I’m very demanding [in] doing certain things,” Takada says, noting that the company has the resources to make the impossible possible. “They always find a solution,” he explains, whether its applying the difficult jacquard, “which is very tough to work with” or making his eclectic patterns pop. In their collaboration, Takada has reinterpreted Roche Bobois’ classic Mah Jong sofa with his Nogaku collection of fabrics, as well as worked with Italian craftsmen to create a line of ceramics, all of which fuse a Japanese touch with a contemporary aesthetic.

Takada reinterpreted Roche Bobois’ classic Mah Jong sofa, shown here in his vibrant Hiru pattern, meant to represent midday tones.

Inspired by the Noh theater kimonos, the sofa is offered in three color schemes to represent different times of day: light tones populate the morning (Asa); vibrant colors bring out the midday (Hiru); and cool blues cap things off for the evening (Yoru). While the application of so many colors and patterns was difficult, Takada says arranging the “mixture of color and blending elements [to] match each other” was “a very fun task.” Indeed, the unique combination of colors and patterns should be familiar to those who’ve followed his career in fashion. “I’m not too minimalist,” he jokes. “I really like to focus on mixing things—mixing elements—from contemporary to ancient, but they have to match each other. It needs to be a good feeling.”

As for the leap from industry to industry, Takada says he always works with “something that has a link with fashion” though he doesn’t expect to return to his roots anytime soon. “I used to love fashion, but you need to always be on top, and it’s nonstop,” he points out. Product design, on the other hand, “is something I like today because it’s more eternal work.”

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