When Kenzō Takada launched his namesake brand Kenzo in 1970, he was one of the world's only designers making fun a priority. With his "East meets West" design aesthetic and penchant for vibrant prints scouted from local flea markets, the Japanese-born Takada spent the next 29 years infusing joy into his clothing until he retired in 1999. But Kenzo has remained an important player in the LVMH portfolio since, entering a new chapter when Opening Ceremony's Humberto Leon and Carol Lim were named creative directors back in 2011. The Kenzo party hasn't stopped for nearly five decades, and it is only going to get rowdier with its brand new H&M collaboration.
The Swedish retailer has its annual partnerships down to a science; it's difficult to believe that its first with Karl Lagerfeld in 2004 was only comprised of a handful of pieces. Today, H&M's collaborations make up an entire arm of its business, tapping the biggest names in fashion — Alexander Wang! Balmain! Versace! Margiela! Lanvin! — to create brand-name pieces at a high-street price point. (At a Kenzo x H&M press conference on Wednesday, the retailer revealed that Kenzo had been on its wish list since Leon and Lim took creative control.) The collaborations have skyrocketed in scale as a result: Kenzo x H&M is a true testament to this, from the gargantuan 95-piece collection to the 20-minute runway show held on Wednesday night at Pier 36.
Where Balmain had the Backstreet Boys and a flock of "It" models, Kenzo ventured outside the box with the help of iconic French artist Jean-Paul Goude. At the show venue, guests were seated in a square with a smaller, curtained-off platform in the room's center. Once the music started, the drapes fell to reveal 12 dancers in head-to-toe Kenzo x H&M grooving atop the stage. A beautifully diverse group of dancers-slash-models soon followed, whose choreography — done by Los Angeles-based choreographer Ryan Heggington — showed off the clothing in new and inventive ways; as one model arched to reveal his T-shirt beneath his bomber jacket, another pirouetted to flip up her skirt so showgoers could see that it was reversible.
And oh, the music! Though a version of Diplo's "Express Yourself" played on loop throughout the entire performance, it was complemented by four string quartets, a beat boxer and a full drum line, the latter of which was a highlight for many guests — myself included.
As was the case with Balmain, the clothes were convincing — both in motion on the runway and in H&M's showroom earlier that afternoon. The attention to detail in this collection is striking, with lots of hand-beading and embroidered graphics interspersed throughout. But the range's pièce de résistance is the $549 ribbon dress — a staple of Takada's early collections — which features patterns both old (from the archives) and new (from Leon and Lim's current collections).
Once the show ended and cannons of pink confetti were unleashed, the runway transformed into a dance floor, with models mingling with the celebrity-packed front row — including campaign faces Chance the Rapper, Rosario Dawson and Chloë Sevigny, as well as Joe Jonas, Lupita Nyong'o, Sienna Miller and Elizabeth Olsen. While some audience members joined the famouses in grooving to the DJ's tunes, others rushed to the pop-up to shop the collection, or waited for the secret musical guest (Ice Cube)'s performance. It was an evening filled with happiness and self-expression, but above all, a reminder that, sometimes, fashion doesn't have to take itself so seriously.
Click through the full Kenzo x H&M runway show below.