The Japanese fashion designer Kenzo Takada has died in Paris after contracting Covid-19, a spokesperson has announced. He was 81.
Takada, known best by his first name, was the first designer from Japan to break into the city’s exclusive fashion milieu in the 1970s.
His prêt-à-porter designs with their trademark profusion of bright colours, flowers and jungle prints were a far cry from the traditional Parisian mode of the time, when chic salon presentations were largely prim and proper affairs, reports The Guardian.
Kenzo, who died at the American hospital on Sunday, was famous not only for his clothes, but went on to create a global brand of perfume and skin products. At the time of his death he was acting honorary President of the Asian Couture Federation.
Born in February 1939, at Himeji near Osaka, his parents ran a hotel. He was fascinated by fashion at an early age, reading his sisters’ magazines and being interested in their sewing lessons. In 1958, after the death of his father, he enrolled at the Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo, one of the previously all-female establishment’s first intake of male students.
After graduating he worked in designing women’s clothes for a department store.
The young Kenzo was inspired by French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, an interest encouraged by his teacher at Bunka who had trained in Paris.
In 1965 he left Japan by boat and via Hong Kong, Vietnam and India, arrived in the French port of Marseillefrom where he travelled to Paris, initially just to visit.
He knew nobody in the French capital, spoke only a little French and was almost penniless. His first impression of Paris was that it was “dismal and bleak” but that Notre Dame Cathedral was “magnificent”.
In the end, Kenzo decided to settle in the city after meeting his partner, Xavier de Castella, who died after in 1990, and never left.
“When I left Japan in 1964, I thought my stay in France would be for six months. I am happy that this stay is still not finished, 50 years on,” he told FranceInfo in 2016.