“Kenzo should be nothing but Kenzo,” Nigo recently told Hypebeast. “My mission is to make Kenzo clothes, not to create my own work. That’s how Kenzo Takada will continue to live.” At the moment the polymathic visionary of modern hype culture became the first Japanese designer to front the house since its trailblazing founder, Nigo described it as the greatest challenge of his 30-year career. “Kenzo san’s approach to creating originality was through his understanding of many different cultures. It is also the essence of my own philosophy of creativity,” the BAPE founder and forever Teriyaki Boy explained in an Instagram post announcing his new role.“ After devoting himself to the LVMH-owned house’s archive and atelier, his first collection fuses the influences of his own upbringing and career with the heritage of Kenzo Takada, writing a sartorial language that looks to the future by learning from the past. Traditional ideas of formal, sports and ‘streetwear’ splice into one logic: real-to-wear! Exercised across women’s and men’s wardrobes, mixing tailoring and workwear, while cutting a genderless silhouette.
From parallel beginnings to crossed-path moments and shared cultural languages, the lives of Nigo and Kenzo have long orbited one another, but the Kenzo autumn/winter 22 show back in February felt like truly a cosmic moment and served as a reminder that at their core, they are both disruptors of fashion’s status quo. In 1970, the year Nigo was born, Kenzo Takada presented his inaugural fashion show in the Galerie Vivienne against the backdrop of his new shop, Jungle Jap. Five decades later, Nigo made his own debut for Kenzo in the same arcade, envisioning it as a tunnel toward the future and beyond the borders of fashion. For both Nigo and Kenzo Takada, what you see on a runway should manifest in real life. And what’s more real life than chores? Inspired LN-CC shoots the collection against the Accidentally Wes Anderson-approved backdrop of the Barbican Launderette. Since the first fast wash of 1973, the iconic elevated everyday location has not only served the 2,100 homes within the Barbican Estate, but has been essential for residents at the nearby YMCA building too. This is real-to-wear.
“Seeing the complete Kenzo archive, especially the early pieces from the 1970s, changed my perception about the entirety of the brand,” Nigo confessed to Vogue. “Previously my perception of it was based very much on the 1980s designer fashion boom that I experienced when I was young in Japan.” Immersed in the house’s archive, he discovered pieces he had never seen. From forgotten florals to hazy memories of Harris Tweed tailoring, Nigo reimagined Kenzo’s past for tomorrow, collaged discoveries with his own obsessions with American workwear, English tailoring and Ivy league-style to blur the lines between nostalgia and newness.
“NIGO JUST MIGHT BE THE BEST APPOINTMENT LVMH HAS EVER MADE,” Highsnobiety declared after the show back in January. Presented at a time when streetwear’s seismic shift on luxury has left critics, commentators, and forecasters arguing over what’s next, the world watched on as the proclaimed godfather of streetwear “took the radical step of presenting a full-fledged fashion collection that looked fresh, energetic, and most importantly, unpretentious.” Launched in 1993, the year LVMH acquired Kenzo, A Bathing Ape quickly established itself as one of the first truly global streetwear imprints and Nigo has been on the front lines of hypebeast culture ever since. But from his own the “future is in the past” brand HUMAN MADE to collaborations with Louis Vuitton and the continued release of hip hop, Nigo has continually looked back to look forward. While some may have underestimated him as merely a streetwear icon, those that know, knew. For the late great Virgil Abloh, there is no one like him. For Pharrell Williams, he is one of the greatest curators of taste and purveyors of what’s next. Ultimately, this acclaimed debut presents a radical rethink of luxury, fashion, and streetwear. Real-to-wear is what’s next.