Kenzo's travel diaries break taboos on catwalk
Nostalgia can also produce vivid creativity and break taboos, Japanese fashion house Kenzo proved Saturday with its new spring-summer menswear collection at Paris fashion week.
Walking down the iron stairway in a 19th century school gymnasium, bespectacled Kenzo models showed off immaculately tailoured fluorescent green blazers, or suits covered with Japanese landscape prints.
And after a string of geeky-cool male models, a woman appeared, then another, until a half dozen had taken part in the show.
"They're not models, they're women I have always adored," Kenzo's designer Antonio Marras told AFP after the show, explaining that one day he "just called them up," and asked them to take part.
The Sardinian, artistic director of the house since 2003 when its Japanese founder Kenzo Takada retired, said he was not suggesting his collection could be worn by ladies too, he was just expressing "the freer attitude today".
"It felt great to walk down with the men," said one of the Kenzo catwalk girls, Joana Preiss, a French actress who starred in the film "In Paris" alongside Romain Duris.
Today, "we go more easily from one (kind of clothing) to another... there are less codes," Preiss explained, "it is not about nomenclature, we are shaking up the codes."
Marras is not the only designer to mix with model genders on the catwalk this season.
Jean-Paul Gaultier broke up his testosterone-filled opening scene of muscly bare-chested men in a steam room, with a blonde long-haired model arriving on the catwalk, "playing" a woman.
Belgium's Walter Van Beirendonck also brought in a few females, but his ladies were imposters and clones wearing the same bell-shaped dress, stilettos and a huge beehive hairdo.
In contrast, Marras was not making a spectacle of his women, dismissing the distinction entirely. In doing so he took the taboo-breaking one stage further by suggesting the taboo itself had disappeared.
The Kenzo invitation to the show was in the form of a travel diary, a favourite item for Marras who often invokes travel as an inspiration for his designs.
For this collection the key inspirations were "a mixture of Japanese watercolours, animal prints, landscapes," he said backstage, pointing to a collage of photos and fabrics hanging alongside mirrors and outfits.
"All these traditional Japanese elements" he wanted to link to "European styles", like Picasso, or French sailing motifs.
The latter appeared in the clothes as a striped section on a blue cotton suit or in chunky knit cardigans that incorporated rope knots around the chest.
The notebook invitation was a card to get into the Kenzo show, but full of blank pages it was also an encouragement to each person in the audience to write their own travel diaries.
"I never part from my notebook," explained Marras in his introductory message, "what is essential is to save, note and capture every sensation."
Clothes can reflect enchanting journeys, and for Marras there are no set borders between countries, cultures or gender in the distinctive Kenzo world he has created.
© 2010 AFP