Dear iDEALS, Kenzo launched in 1970 as the brainchild of Japanese-born Kenzo Takada. The look epitomized "West meets East," merging bold prints with an ethnic vibe, exotic flowers and textures to blend Kenzo's natural Japanese influences with Parisian culture. In 1983, The house of Kenzo introduced the menswear part , and five years later, the first Kenzo fragrance was launched, which led to a highly successful series of fragrances and skin care.
Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy bought the label in 1993, and the next year the house covered the Parisian Pont Neuf Bridge in 10,000 flowers. After Takada’s retirement in 1999, it took 4 years to find a successful replacement. Gilles Rosier was the first designer to take over, unsuccessfully.
One year later, Rosier was replaced by Antonio Marras.
The Sardinia-based Antonio Marras was hired as Creative Director for womenswear and he debuted in Paris during the Fall 2004 season.
What always impresses me about him is his ability to remain a low profile master of Fashion and that he gloriously continues the legacy of KENZO.
In the year of our Lord, 2010, the name of KENZO is written in 24 carat gold letters thanks to Antonio Marras.
FilepMotwary: You count six years already as the Head Designer of Kenzo. What changed in the company since you took over? How different you feel as a person?
AntonioMarras: I do. I am a very lucky person because what I do, my profession is what I love the most. My life and my work are strictly linked and 6 years of time changed my perspective a lot .
Now I feel my vision of the brand is more mature, I walk out of the shadow of the big Kenzo Takada to give collections a more personal touch.
When you work for a big house like KENZO, with such a strong history and identity, you often do not dare to change much.
I think we have done something very beneficial to the brand since I took over the women’s first line in 2003.
Last year, I was appointed global creative director of the brand and now I direct all the lines of the Maison: menswear, childrenswear, accessories and home lines.
This has given me a wider vision and experience of the brand and my aim is to make KENZO a global lifestyle brand, with a very strong and coherent identity at all levels. I wanted to take "all" of KENZO into modernity by adding my personal vision of it.
AntonioMarras: I have wonderful
teams who co-ordinate with me. They travel to Sardinia at the beginning
of the season and stay with me several weeks. Then I come to Paris regularly
to check the progress of the collection and discuss of changes. It is
just a different way of working.
FilepMotwary: How do you work with deadlines?
AntonioMarras: I have to,there
is no other choice. When you are a creative person, you think that you’d
not have to bother with practical details and stuff. But this is not
true! Fashion is such a concrete industry, with deadlines, possible
and impossible things, fabrics that run out, models who are late! So
I rely as much as I can on people I work with and trust what they do.
FilepMotwaryKenzo Takada was known for his frivolous prints, the enormous shapes and the theatrical way he used to present his collections. On the contrary, you are someone who loves intense patterns, the weight of Histroy, the importance of religion, tribal references, the colors and the connections between them.. How do you see your work?
AntonioMarras: I think Kenzo Takada has given a quite unique and fresh message to fashion. It was the very end of the 60s and fashion was still the matter of some old people in tiny "couture" salons in Paris where women were represented as ladies-bourgeoisies with no other choice than wearing fitted tailleurs and princess evening dresses.
Kenzo changed all this with his "no couture" approach, free shapes, colors and prints, influences from far away countries. Fashion was for fun and freedom for the first time. Fashion was for real people. This is an extremely modern message and today it is very pertinent.
I share with Mr Takada the sense of cultural nomadism, the fascination for exoticism that you combine with a western wardrobe.
I believe in the "fusion fashion" he first proposed. He mixed the Parisian couture with his Japanese roots; I mix it with my Sardinian origins, my historical and tribal references. We both came from an island and like all islanders we have particular visions.
Very important! Past is the basis of future. The stories I tell for KENZO have to be stories anyone has known for ever. The story can be the same, something you have heard million times but what matters in the end, it is the way you tell it. That is why I always start from inspiration that is familiar for everyone but then try to mix it with some opposite element and make it a new hybrid story.
AntonioMarras: You used the word "tribe". I love this word. When you have a global brand like KENZO with lines for everyone (men, women, children, home), it is easy to go for a "family" concept. I do not want it for KENZO. I prefer the "tribe" idea, a kind of open family where people gather together, no matter where they come for, in the name of a common vision. For me KENZO is a tribe who does not want to look like the others. Our KENZO "tribe" has a personal style, shares the same love for hybrid influences and journeys.
AntonioMarras: I am the less appropriate
person to answer this question. I tend to forget what I have done
in the past. Although I cherish some kind of nostalgia for old movies
and artists from last century, I never apply this feeling to my personal
work. My work and my mind are all for the next collection. No time to
AntonioMarras: Yes in Rome in 1994
FilepMotwary: Mr Marras, nowadays, fashion has become more and more about craft. Pret-A -Porter has so many couture references. The approach is almost the same. Where does couture stand today?
AntonioMarras: I think today all
these elements that used to be separated meld together. This is something
Kenzo understood 40 years ago! Couture, ready to wear, sportswear, casual
wear: everything enter in the same collection and none is surprised
to see Swarovski embroidered denim in a ready to wear collection.
AntonioMarras: Someone one day defined my work as "couture-à-porter". I have always proposed in my rtw collections some unique pieces made by the atelier on request. My approach is not the one of the couture maison though: I tend to find, let’s say, 100 military jackets from the 30’s and I customize them with precious embroideries hand made by old ladies from Sardinia.
As you see, there is a very "couture"
approach but the exclusivity is not about the price or the brand only:
it is about something unique, historical and limited.
AntonioMarras: I do not condemn mainstream brands. I just think that some of them really come up with original design at small prices and this is totally fine with me.
Some others just copy and paste,this is wrong but it is a creative-killing process. The day they
will have killed all the small creative houses by making affordable
copies , I wonder whom are they going to plagiarize ideas from?
AntonioMarras: Both,the product
must show the process,if it doesn’t then something is wrong.
FilepMotwary: Years back, I wanted to work for you. James Greenfield interviewed me back then. Although I never got the position, the question still remains: What are you looking for in a young person’s work, to include him/her as part of your team?
AntonioMarras: I love creativity
and focused vision. I like someone who shares the same vision with me
but who also has something very different to propose. I am not one of
those designers who expect his team to just copy his work. I love new
ideas and plenty of them. They just have to be right for KENZO.
AntonioMarras: I believe that
fashion; decoration, photography, art and cinema can dialogue together.
For KENZO Maison, I signed a special project, the BEEEA pouf. It is
very KENZO: it has the same shape than the pagodon bag, an iconic bag
Kenzo Takada created by inspiring himself from the boxes Asian women
use to collect rice more than 10 years ago.
It has wheels, so it is nomad and can travel and the theme of journey is a major inspiration at Kenzo’s.
Lastly, it is inspired by the flocks of Sardinia ,my birth land , and has an hand made bell created by the most ancient manufacturer of the island.
Every bell makes a different sound that is how the shepherd recognizes each of his animals. Last but not least, it is fun, so very KENZO!
AntonioMarras: I think there are differences between women and men as costumers in general. I try to be more subtle and quieter for menswear but I do believe the two lines have to dialogue and be coherent.
I dare to hope that KENZO offers something different in fashion. Not always easy, not always mainstream, but unique.
FilepMotwary: How important is fashion journalism or a show’s aftermath in the press from a designer’s perspective?
AntonioMarras: It is hard to hear
bad comments but I think you can take it and learn from them if you
think there is something good in it. But what matters the most for me
is my work. If I think I did what I had to, there is no much I regret.
Interview under Un nouVeau iDEAL copyrights.