#SuzyPFW: Kenzo and Lacoste – A New Landscape

Kenzo takes inspiration from its painterly roots

Outside the grand building, snow threatened – but inside the Kenzo La Collection Memento show, the tables were filled with greenery and exotic food, as if guests had been transported to a magical holiday island. Then the waiters served up an unexpected treat: the lush landscapes of Henri ‘Le Douanier’ Rousseau as paintings by the artist of tropical nature were carried in.

“Kenzo Takada painted Rousseau-style murals on his store the first day it opened and called it Jungle Jap after the painting,” said Humberto Leon, one of the two creative directors at Kenzo. He and his design partner Carol Lim were entranced by the concept of recreating the spirit of the Japanese designer and his far-flung travels.

It all worked beautifully. The dramatic ending even had the models on the stairs around a reincarnation of Rousseau’s The Dream painting – although not quite in its full nudity!

But the fashion vision was closer to home – knitwear and the stripes that were the starting point of the brand. Although there were some outfits of skirts or dresses covered with a jungle of flowers and frills, more typical were the knits for both sexes.

By playing with the stripes in different colours, even including a stark black and white, the designers brought 21st-century modernity to the clothes in a simple way. The men’s looks were perhaps more related to jungle colours, but the show was a good balance of inspiration with reality.

What would the artist with his passion for the tropics think of this conversion to a more mundane world, where people need to cover up their nudity? Carol is convinced that the duo had found a genuine link. “Rousseau’s daughter was a tapestry maker and her father always wanted to see his paintings in fabric and clothing – but she didn’t like his idea,” the designer said. “And when we approached the Henri Rousseau foundation they were like, ‘You are actually fulfilling Rousseau’s dreams of seeing his artwork come to life in clothing.’ So, we see the collection as an ode to Kenzo, Rousseau and ourselves.”

Lacoste’s designer was inspired by a wooded golf course to bring leaves to sporty techno clothing

In front of the stage at Lacoste, there was a large tree looking over an undulating green golf course. Oops! Had someone made a mistake when the crocodile brand is famously attached to tennis?

But creative director Felipe Oliviera Baptista had another story to tell about the brand’s founding family.

“René Lacoste’s wife Simone was a golf champion and they owned a course in the South of France,” he explained. “In the second world war, in order that the peasants were not obliged to be sent to the army in Germany, they made them all work and plant trees and that became the golf course.”

He went on to explain that he studied all the references to golf from the archives of this lesser-known element of the brand.

“I have just really been looking at what is timeless today, what is essential and what is sustainable.”

Then there is a collaboration with a nature conservation charity which created a limited edition of polo shirts corresponding to the ten most endangered species on the planet. That part of the collection will go online for sale today.

That sounds complex, yet the Lacoste collection flowed along. The colour palette was drawn from what the designer called “the organic and vegetable subtext”. That included leafy green, woody rust brown, hazel and other forest tones. As well as the bold leaf patterns, there were sweaters where branches and leaves were used delicately, like drawings. Add to that small fish and animals.

The gentle presentation of these thoughtful ideas made for a collection that went far beyond the golf course – or any of Lacoste’s other sportswear.