The History of Kenzo

by Ian Duncan on November 26, 2023
Kenzo Takada

The bustling streets of Paris in the 1970s were a hub of artistic expression and cultural fusion. It was here that Kenzo Takada, a young Japanese designer, made his mark on the fashion world. Born in 1939 in Himeji, Japan, Kenzo’s passion for fashion blossomed at a young age, inspired by the colours and fabrics of his mother’s kimono collection.

Kenzo embarked on a transformative journey in 1964, at the age of 25, when he moved to Paris. His arrival in the fashion capital marked the beginning of a groundbreaking career that would redefine the fashion landscape.

In 1970, at the age of 31, Kenzo launched his eponymous brand, KENZO, opening his first boutique, "Jungle Jap," in Galerie Vivienne, Paris. The boutique's name reflected Kenzo’s fascination with jungle-inspired designs and his distinctive approach to fashion—vibrant, bold, and inspired by a myriad of cultural influences.


Kenzo's designs were a breath of fresh air in the fashion scene of the time. He embraced a playful mix of patterns, textures, and colours, infusing his collections with a sense of global nomadism, drawing inspiration from his travels and diverse cultures. His iconic use of floral prints, animal motifs, and other culturally-inspired designs became synonymous with the brand.

The '70s and '80s witnessed Kenzo's rise to prominence. His designs, characterized by a harmonious clash of cultures and a bohemian aesthetic, resonated with a generation seeking fashion that celebrated individuality and freedom of expression.

Kenzo Sweatshirt

One of Kenzo’s most iconic creations was the Kenzo tiger sweatshirt, introduced in the 1980s. The sweatshirt, adorned with a fierce embroidered tiger motif, became a symbol of the brand's playful yet sophisticated style, drawing widespread interest among fashion followers around the globe.

In 1983, Kenzo expanded his offerings by launching his first men’s collection, further establishing his influence in the world of fashion. The brand's men's lines mirrored the same vibrancy and eclectic designs that defined its women's collections, catering to a diverse clientele.

Kenzo Takada's avant-garde approach to design extended beyond clothing. In 1988, at the age of 49, he launched a fragrance line, starting with the iconic fragrance Kenzo de Kenzo. The brand's fragrances, encapsulating the spirit of nature and travel, became immensely popular and reinforced Kenzo’s status as a multifaceted luxury brand.

In 1993, Kenzo Takada made the decision to retire from his eponymous brand, marking the end of an era. His departure paved the way for a new chapter in Kenzo's history while leaving behind a legacy of innovation and creativity that continues to influence the fashion world.

Subsequently, the brand underwent various changes in ownership. In 1999, the LVMH Group acquired Kenzo, ushering in a new era while maintaining the brand’s essence and distinctive style.

Kenzo Menswear

Under new creative direction, Kenzo continued to evolve, exploring new design territories while staying true to its roots. In 2011, at the age of 72, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, the founders of Opening Ceremony, took the helm as creative directors, injecting a youthful and contemporary energy into the brand.

The duo’s tenure saw a revival of Kenzo’s iconic motifs and bold prints, breathing new life into the brand. Their innovative approach and collaborations with artists and musicians reinvigorated Kenzo, appealing to a younger audience while honoring the brand's heritage.

Kenzo’s runway shows became renowned for their creativity and theatricality, showcasing the brand's ability to merge high fashion with artistic expression. The brand’s iconic tiger motif and vibrant designs remained at the forefront.

In 2020, at the age of 81, Kenzo Takada passed away, leaving behind a rich legacy that forever changed the landscape of fashion. A brand that began with a young designer's dream to create a fashion universe that embraced cultural diversity, vibrant designs, and a celebration of individuality. His pioneering spirit and innovative designs continue to inspire the fashion industry, cementing his status as a visionary designer.