SOPHIA JARAMILLO WRITES — As the curtains closed on Paris Fashion Week 2020, so did the life of one of Paris’ own: 56-year-long fashion designer Kenzo Takada passed away on October 4th due to complications of coronavirus.
Even at the age of 81, the Japanese-born Parisian expatriate Takada’s vividly bright designs were associated with crossing boundaries and testing limits—which were seen as a steppingstone for Japanese fashion designers who would succeed Takada. The designer was not fond of being called a “Japanese designer.” He wanted to be known for his work rather than his ethnicity.
Takada’s beginnings demonstrate what fashions of the time were not. While using Japanese textures, prints, and silhouettes at the core of his creations, his taste for rebellion and playfulness gave birth to a revolutionary brand that embodied the personality of upcoming generations. Ultimately, Takada essentially created ‘happy clothes’ as said by fashion journalist Suzy Menkes.
One of the most notable moments in his career was the initial decision to utilize Jap as part of his label’s name; he wanted to reclaim the slur to ‘create something beautiful,’ Takada said. Avoiding further controversy, Mr. Takada used his first name, Kenzo, for his label and first store in Paris. We can praise, then, Mr. Takada’s efforts to shift cultural stereotypes and redefine offensive terms.
Now, at the beginning of a decade and approaching the close of a tumultuous year, we should not think of Kenzo Takada’s death as a loss, but rather, as a time to reflect on his bright, fun, innovative creativity and the global experience that gave youths in particular a non-conformist platform on which to express themselves. And so, we honor Takada’s lifelong mantra: ‘The world is beautiful.’