Nigo’s radically simple vision for Kenzo
Since time immemorial – well, time immemorial –ish, that is, since the dawn of blockbuster fashion shows in the 2000s – the measure of a designer’s first season buzz has been the caliber of front-row guests. Is it jam-packed with celebrities of the moment, including a star with a hit song or TV show wearing designer looks? Are fashion trendsetters from the music world, like Gunna or the Migos, present?
The front row of Nigo’s debut show for Kenzo, which took place in Paris on Sunday, was basically a Mount Rushmore man. There was Pharrell, Julia Fox (wrapped in a Kenzo fleece scarf), Ye, Tyler, the creator, and Pusha T. And in the middle of this quintet was Nigo himself: founder of A Bathing Ape, recent collaborator of Virgil Abloh, all-around streetwear legend, and now creator of Kenzo. Nigo wasn’t just establishing himself as a star in his own right — Bape, of course, was an early stalwart of the hypebeast movement. He was also just hanging out with his friends.
It was less about star power and more about an organic connection to deep menswear. You really can pay anyone to show up at a fashion show (and it’s written into most celebrity spokespeople’s contracts). But they are Nigo’s lifelong friends, and equals in terms of influencing fashion and street style over the past decade or more. This six-person lineup seemed to suggest that each of these personalities are finally getting their due as style pioneers. You can really trace the revival of the prep in its current state back to Tyler, the creator; Ye is almost like a north star for a sort of mass-yet-sophisticated taste, pointing us first to Marc Jacobs’ work at Louis Vuitton (which Abloh later Frankstein turned into something sublime); then to Phoebe Philo, and now to Demna. And Pharrell is like the godfather of it all.
But what about the clothes this line of style champions were treated to? The most intriguing thing about the collection was its simplicity: good knitwear, beautiful overcoats, sheepskin jackets, colorful suits, baker’s caps and berets, and work clothes. The craziest things, design-wise, were a pair of fours and a matching suit jacket under a plaid apron. (A golf outfit for Tyler, perhaps?) There were cute, cheerful prints designed by house founder Kenzo Takada, which Nigo unearthed from the archives. The fabrics were simple: denim, cotton, wool.
If you’re surprised, maybe that was Nigo’s intention. As much as people talk about streetwear taking over luxury and fashion, it’s clear that the streetwear we see from major fashion houses is not the stuff that the pioneers of the movement wanted. As Nigo said vogue‘s Steff Yotka in a pre-show interview, streetwear is quite misunderstood. The originals often say this stuff – and Nigo belongs to a generation for whom authenticity and origins really matter. But Nigo is more interested in the protesting past of the sector. “From my point of view, streetwear started as a rebellion against fashion or luxury. It was actually a counterculture, like an underground movement,” he said. “I think people have forgotten that because it’s become so ubiquitous that it’s the norm now, and streetwear, at least for the fashion world, seems like non-design.” There’s a feeling that streetwear is about graphic hoodies and collaborations, and Nigo wanted to push that idea back: “I want the message to just be clothing-centric,” he said. vogue.
The other thing about Nigo’s quality streetwear is that it takes personal style as the ultimate flex, as interpretation. It’s up to the bearer to mix styles and codes and create something original, as Nigo (and Pharrell, and Tyler, and Ye) have so often done. That’s a pretty radical message for today, especially coming from a designer of a brand under the giant LVMH umbrella. The last decade has fostered an obsession with embodying a designer’s vision, wearing something straight off the runway or recreating a runway look. “Grail” has come to refer to a garment’s ubiquity or popularity on social media, rather than indicating its rarity or particularly good or unusual design. Nigo looks set to put the spotlight back on the wearer. Kenzo de Nigo makes some great clothes, but more importantly, he lets his fandom put their own weird spin on them.
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