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Kenzo Takada: Asian Fashion Designers can become the next trendsetters

In Singapore for Fashion Week 2013, the Kenzo founder chats about the growing importance of Asian couture in contemporary fashion

There is currently a growing, “never-before-seen movement for couture in Asia”, according to Kenzo Takada (as seen on the left). It’s a wave of change that the iconic fashion designer wishes to support, as the honorary president of the newly inaugurated Asian Couture Federation (ACF).

Kenzo also believes that Asian couture designers have the potential to become the “trend-setters” of the fashion industry — he feels that Asia’s rich cultural diversity, as well as the many traditional forms of craftsmanship of this region are fertile sources of inspiration for fashion designers.

In Singapore for Fashion Week 2013, the designer was spotted at the front row of the Japanese Couture showcase night on October 13, 2013.

“The beauty of Asian couture comes from the designers’ attention to detail and the skilful, traditional craftsmanship involved,” explains Kenzo, when we spoke to him through a Japanese translator at Fashion Week 2013.

“The challenge now, is to create fashion that is unique to Asia, while keeping it contemporary to its times,” says the fashion icon. “I hope that Asian couture will be recognised not only in Asia but in the world too, for its uniqueness.”

Despite being heralded as one of Japan’s fashion pioneers, Kenzo was actually “very surprised” when he was invited to take the role of ACF’s honorary president as he had “never done couture as a business”.

Nonetheless, he hopes to aid the development of Asian couture in whatever way that he can, fuelled by his love of “the creativity of fashion, whether it is expressed through haute couture or prêt-à-porter (ready-to-wear collections)”.

(L-R): Felice Towako co-founders Akira and Towako Kimijima, fashion designer Kenzo Takada and ACF governor Yuki Sakaguchi at Fashion Week 2013

His last visit to Singapore was in 2012 for Fide Fashion Weeks; Kenzo had attended the French Couture night that was hosted by the Monaco Prince Albert and Princess Charlene and was impressed by how couture was worn “naturally and elegantly” by the Singapore audience at the gala dinner. He also found the younger Singaporeans in attendance to be “very trendy” and well-dressed.

To Kenzo, such a youthful passion for fashion is also inspiring. He finds it a joy to work together with the new generation of young creative talents, whose youthful energy drives him to keep creating too.

While the 74 year-old Japanese designer may have retired from fashion in 1999, Kenzo continues to design for areas as diverse as jewellery and home furnishing. “I enjoy working with the specialists of each field and I appreciate how we inspire each other to create something new,” shares Kenzo.

Kenzo is also pleased to see the direction that Humberto Leon and Carol Lim have taken, for his eponymous fashion label. “They’re very young, passionate designers and I’m happy to see how they’ve made a lot of young people become fans of the Kenzo brand,” says the designer.

As for emerging young designers, Kenzo advises that they need to stay “hungry” for inspiration and learn from their environment, to keep themselves curious and interested about the world around them.

Most importantly, young designers need to “build up their brand identity,” while “designing for the era that they live in”.

“In the seventies, couture was the old way of creating fashion,” says the designer. “But how we think about fashion back then is very different from what it is now. Technology, fashion trends change over time and so does the mindset toward fashion in Asia. Designers need to be aware of these changes and design according to their times.”

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