Fashion

H&M's boldest designer collaboration yet

Kenzo creative directors Carol Lim and Humberto Leon talk about what just may be H&M’s most playful designer collaboration.
IMAGE H&M
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The Kenzo x H&M collection hits stores soon, but before you make a beeline for that sweet leather jacket with a patchwork logo, please meet the tandem behind the Parisian fashion house Kenzo, Carol Lim and Humberto Leon. Below, the creative directors discuss why they wanted to “think big, make a bold statement, and do the unexpected.”

For them, the collaboration has been an opportunity to create a conversation with the label’s founder, Kenzo Takada, as well as fully play with the house’s archives (something they haven’t done before), interpreting its riot of print and colors through the lens of absolute expression. In other words, it’s about having fun. “We look at this collaboration as a celebration. It’s a celebration of the work of Kenzo Takada, but also a celebration of fashion and the joy that you can have with what you wear,” says Leon. Get ready to shop. — CLIFFORD OLANDAY

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Kenzo creative directors Carol Lim and Humberto Leon with H&M creative advisor Ann-Sofie Johansson

Kenzo creative directors Leon and Lim are big fans of H&M’s designer collaborations.

Carol Lim: We queued up for the very first H&M collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld. I remember waiting in line outside the SoHo H&M store in New York, and how everyone was so excited. The energy was crazy. We wanted to give people the chance to have the same fun with Kenzo.

Humberto Leon: We love how much fun you can have with an H&M collaboration. It’s an opportunity to do something big and bold that people can afford. We looked back at past H&M collaborations and saw how much fun they had—like the amazing wedding dress they did with Viktor & Rolf.

 

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The collection tributes the label’s legendary founder, Kenzo Takada.

Lim: There are a lot of young people who think Humberto and I started Kenzo five years ago. They don’t know the story of Kenzo Takada, and how revolutionary his fashion was in 1970s Paris. He was making clothing for women to wear that was fun and exciting, breaking the rules with total freedom. It was pure fashion to wear in everyday life, and it’s still very relevant today.

Leon: We wanted to make this like a three-dimensional conversation between us and

what Kenzo Takada had started. We’ve never really played with the archives at Kenzo, and we felt it was a great opportunity to [tell a story] and have some fun. We wanted to do something totally unique with this H&M collaboration, and look at the history of the brand through 21st-century eyes.


Takada’s tradition of fearlessness has been sewn into the pieces.

Lim: Kenzo Takada was an innovator and a maverick. He landed in Paris from Japan and set his own agenda for what he thought fashion should be. He had his own shop so he could experiment freely, and would just find fabric and make things out of it. He played with shapes and proportions, and just had fun with fashion. When women wore his clothes they looks totally stylish, but they were also totally effortless.

Leon: If you look in the archives he did so much. He’s famous for his prints, but there’s so much else, like his ruffles, which we really wanted to celebrate, his beading on jersey, or his early faux-fur pieces that are really extreme. He experimented so much with fashion, and it’s that spirit of playfulness that we wanted to capture in the Kenzo x H&M collection.

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The clothes are not just a remix of the old and new Kenzo. Every piece has been “designed in its purest form” for H&M.

Leon: Kenzo x H&M is even more playful and proud than anything we’ve done with Kenzo before. We’ve approached it a little differently than the work we do at the brand, because it gives us the chance to dream and think about pure fashion. We wanted to take our prints, Kenzo Takada’s prints, our look, his look, and to say that anything goes, clash it all [together, and] have fun. The great thing is none of this existed in our line before. We truly designed this collection for H&M in its purest form. For us, it’s exciting because maybe you’ve bought from our Kenzo collections before, or you once bought from Kenzo Takada’s collections, but you definitely wouldn’t have any of this.

Lim: Every piece is a conversation between us and Kenzo Takada. Nothing is taken directly from the archives, whether we’ve used our prints for an iconic style, or refreshed the design to make it part of our world. I love that this conversation is taking place across four decades, and yet it feels so alive and relevant for today.

 


Expect “big, bold fashion ideas.” (Pink tiger stripes, anyone?)

Leon: The men’s collection is full of big, bold fashion ideas. We wanted to push the prints, the colors, and the clashes, and make some major statements. I love the reversible trench that you can unzip the bottom panel to turn it into a bomber, or the fake fur top that’s like a fun take on outdoors wear. The details are super important, like the printed performance zips that are like borders on the multi-print down jacket, or the beaded logo on a sweatshirt, or the silicon and woven medallion patches on a chunky knit.

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Lim: We know that men want to have as much fun with fashion as women. This collaboration with H&M was a great opportunity to show that on such a global platform, and to be expressive and proud with men’s style. What’s great about this collection is that men can take pieces from it and wear them in their own way. We’ve always believed that people should interpret fashion for themselves, and this is the perfect collection of statement pieces to [mix with your clothes], so you can play with your everyday wardrobe.

 


The high-octane accessories are as potent as the clothes.

Lim: We want everyone to feel like they’ve got a true piece of Kenzo x H&M, even if they can only get the charm key chain. Accessories are so much fun, because you can use them to get a real taste of the collection, like the acetate earrings and cuffs with the mesh print, or the caps with patches and prints. I love the leather bag that’s like a take on the Kenzo shopper, or the sunglasses with the zigzag bridge and stems. It’s the same as the whole collection. We wanted to make pieces that people will value and enjoy for years to come.

Leon: I love that some of the accessories make a major statement, like the men’s caps that sit really high over the head to extend the silhouette, or the women’s caps that tie with a bow. Then there are accessories that are totally every day, like the Chelsea boots with vivid color soles or the printed backpacks or cross-body bags.


 

There will be something for everyone.

Lim: We wanted Kenzo x H&M to speak across the generations. We love that there’ll be 15 year old kids who’ll be wearing Kenzo for the first time, alongside 20- or 30-year-olds who’ve been making Kenzo part of their wardrobe since Humberto and I started at the label. Then there’ll be those who were lucky enough to have been alive during the time of Kenzo Takada, who’ll come to the collection for a taste of their heritage, and wear the prints and styles that they once loved all over again.

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The Kenzo x H&M collection will be available in H&M Mega Fashion Hall and H&M Makati on November 3.

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About The Author
Clifford Olanday
Senior Fashion Editor, Esquire Philippines
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