Kenzo Spring 2023 Ready-to-Wear

This sophomore collection by Nigo for Kenzo marked a double graduation. The first was that—as he observed via his trusty translator Toby, post-show—Nigo is increasingly finding the levels and detail of denim (now all sourced from Japan) and workwear production here much more aligned with his expectations as a connoisseur, thanks to evolution within Kenzo. Said Toby: “He’s got access to the fabrics he wants. Everything’s still being made here, but he feels that they understand his vibe and then they’re also adding to it with their own sensibility.”

Secondly, a graduation is what this show was staged to remind us of. Nigo said he’d used the concept of a passing out ceremony—inspired by a 1980s show by Kenzo Takada based on a sports day—in order to present an otherwise diverse group of dressed characters under the same banner: this was Kenzo’s class of ’23.

Nigo is still understandably steeping himself in the archive of the house’s founder. Waistcoats came patched with an array of long-defunct labels—including for Kenzo Jeans and Jungle—that were reproductions of original Takada-era graphic designs. Similarly the patched naif animalia pieces were based on an archive design. And the womenswear especially—with the notable exception of a wabash and hickory striped denim liner dress in look 19, and look 16’s fabulous unwashed swing skirt—seemed deeply rooted in Takada’s oeuvre.

Although this was a continuation of last season’s collection—in honor of Takada’s own annual cycle—a new interjection was the armada of naval inspired pieces. As well as literal-ish sailor wear, the maritime scarf was ingeniously integrated into the house’s revived tailoring as jacket lapels. The maritime aesthetic is deeply embedded in contemporary Japanese dress—just look at the school uniforms—but it also served as an interesting point of connection in a collection that was produced by a French house, conceived by a Japanese designer, and which took fundamental points of inspiration from Americana: conceptually, these were much-traveled clothes.

Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, Jaden Smith and Ghali were among the latest crop of stars here to see Nigo’s work for themselves. In what I counted as his third show of the menswear week, Alexandre Arnault was here too, wearing sturdy New Balance 911s like all pro show attendees do. One marginally less youthful fan of the collection was Sidney Toledano, the Chairman and CEO of LVMH Fashion Group, who recalled fondly backstage that his first ever jacket was by Takada, then told Nigo he would wear one of the collection’s woozy regimental striped suits to the group’s next board meeting. This was a collection with pan-generational appeal that spanned continents and cultures: word is that the sales are already reflecting the new wind Nigo has brought to Kenzo.

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