Time is a Circle: Nigo's First Show at Kenzo Brings the 'Big Look' to 2022 - Lookbook

Kenzo’s new creative director Nigo steers the brand forward with a few winks to the past.

It’s been 22 years since a Japanese man was in charge of Kenzo. The brand founded by and named after Kenzo Takada in 1970 made an impact on the fashion world with its emphasis on volume; The “Big Look,” was a silhouette change that became the forefront of trends of the mid-70s.

READ ALSO: Tiger Beat: Fashion And Beauty Welcome Lunar New Year With Pop-Out Colors And In-Your-Face Feline Prints

In 1993, LVMH acquired the brand and Takada resigned in 1999. In the intervening years, the label survived on its licensing agreements and despite attempted refurbishment from a revolving door of designers, there were years Kenzo barely broke even.

The hiring of Tomoaki Nagano, commonly known as Nigo in September 2021 is a statement of intent from LVMH to buck that direction.

“The arrival of an extremely talented Japanese designer will allow us to write a new page in the history of the House that Takada Kenzo founded,” said LVMH fashion group chairman and CEO Sidney Toledano. “I am convinced that the creativity and innovation of Nigo, as well as his attachment to the history of the House, will fully express all the potential of Kenzo.”

For his part, Nigo, who is best known as the creator of the urban clothing line A Bathing Ape (Bape), was excited to take up the mantle. Despite the legacy bequeathed to the 51-year-old, his statement did not belie the huge pressure on him.

Pointing out his commonalities with Takada, not least that he was born in the year the first Kenzo store opened in Paris, Nigo underscored his respect for the past and his outlook for the future. “Inheriting the spirit of Kenzo san’s craftsmanship to create a new Kenzo is the greatest challenge of my 30-year career, which I intend to achieve together with the team,” he says.

Due to the “Big Look,” and the status conferred on Takada as a disruptor of fashion’s status quo, I was curious to see the direction Nigo would take the brand. We are, after all, a few years into street style’s reign as the go-to look for hits and metrics, a look Takada himself popularized at Bape.

Would he, too, be able to disrupt the status quo? Or are we still mired in what André Leon Talley called a famine of beauty?

“My eyes are starving for beauty!” he said, and I agree with him as I peruse the latest collections. I see another pointless logo spelled out and emblazoned in block letters on a sweatshirt, a handbag that looks the same as its counterpart in another brand under the same ownership group, and visually excruciating shoes masquerading as chic. All of these are superficial attempts to highlight how democratic fashion has come to be, without actually doing anything about its real, visceral problems. Starving for beauty, indeed. 

Thankfully, I needn’t have worried. Nigo’s first show at Kenzo took place at the Galerie Vivienne, a covered passageway in Paris located in the 2nd arrondissement, where Takada held his first show 52 years ago.

This was not the only nod to history on Nigo’s part: looking into the label’s annals, he bought back patterned and floral prints from the archives, mixing and matching to create vibrant collusions for the eyes. 

Another homage was the tailoring: The “Big Look” is back, reinterpreted in a fresh way for 2022 sensibilities: boxy jackets paired with boxy trousers, a hood attached to a tweed caftan, and a few pieces that could pass for a fashionable take on PPEs. I was particularly taken with the Ivy League-esque tailoring. (I would not be surprised if Take Ivy, a photobook depicting style at the Ivy League universities and published in 1965 by Shosuke Ishizu was a formative influence.)

Some of the mawkish street-style-isms are still there (we are still in the business of fashion and LVMH has a bottom line to think of), but done with a paired-down, luxurious way: the logos don’t scream as much as the clothes, which is all I hope for nowadays when it comes to clothing.

In an interesting undertaking of cross-branding, the show’s soundtrack featured songs from Nigo’s latest album (he is also a DJ), I Know Nigo, with a features list that includes Pharell, Kid Cudi, A$AP Rocky, Tyler the Creator, and more. The front row was replete with those acts, along with Yoon of Ambush and the little-known couple you might know, Kanye West and Julia Fox. 

Shop for LIFESTYLE ASIA’S magazines through these platforms.
Download LIFESTYLE ASIA’s digital magazines from:
Subscribe via [email protected]