KENZO X H&M // A Runway Rave

Arms flailing, legs gyrating, hips thrusting, facial expressions contorting in sync with the beating of drums? Sounds more like a modern day rave than a runway show.

But, It wasn’t.

Rather, it was the scene set for the Kenzo x H&M presentation by the innovative designer duo Carol Lim and Humberto Leon of Opening Ceremony and Kenzo.

In an industry largely dominated by the concept of exclusivity, Lim and Leon broke down the barriers that withheld the luxury of high fashion from the public with this collaboration by welcoming all to join in on their street-inspired party.

The show opened with a marching band of beat boxers, horn players and drummers moving harmoniously to the choreography of creative genius, Jean-Paul Goude, with whom the designers collaborated with.

It was no surprise then, that the fashion show-turned-dance party steered models away from the rather stoic-faced (yet stunning) undertones of most runways. Goude is notorious for his joyous, wild events and campaigns that manifest fashion’s innate power of being fun.

Courtesy of H&M

Here, Goude made fashion fun again, without underscoring the beauty of the collection.

With models and professional dancers moving to the beat of N.W.A.’s “Express Yourself”, the show paid homage to the Parisian label’s founder, Kenzo Takada, who too, was famous for his joyous spirit displayed in his 1970s multicultural runway performances. Throughout his career, the Japanese designer’s goal was to celebrate a multi-hued world that was harmonious and eclectic.

“My work was always about freedom and harmony,” Takada said. “I’d like to be remembered as a designer who crossed boundaries.”

Though extravagant by all means, the collection as a whole was a work of art, as Lim and Leon successfully merged the past designs of Takada with that of their own, which according to Lim was a goal they had set from the beginning.

“Humberto said, it would be really great to take pieces from the archives and celebrate those along with the pieces we created in our first collection and have a true conversation between us and Kenzo Takada,” Lim remembered.

The designers did just that, taking the archival shapes of Takada and adding the oversized, simple structure that is characteristic of Lim and Leon today. Takada’s Spring 1970 Collection of kimono inspired pieces as well as Lim and Leon’s wide-leg trousers from their first collection were clearly reflected throughout the lineup.



Lim and Leon certainly took a page out of Takada’s book to not only create a line of freedom, fluidity, harmony and joy, but to bring Kenzo back to it’s “Japanese jungle” roots as well.

Vibrantly hued tiger prints of blues, greens, oranges, purples and reds appeared on the jungle-esque runway in virtually all designs imaginable. Tiger-striped faux fur coats sat comfortably on the models shoulders, as tiger-printed hats and gloves kept the models warm for the upcoming weather.

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Courtesy of Vogue

The current Kenzo designers particularly excelled at capturing Takada’s love for the Eastern custom of wrapping loose layers, which he introduced to the Western practices of Parisian designs in the 1960s and 1970s.

Lovely blue-patterned dresses layered under oversized kimono jackets, loosely draped over the collection’s featured tiger-striped leggings and ankle boots, had Takada’s signature style written all over it.

Similar, ruffle silhouette dresses of lush vibrant prints hung under baggy bombers and over wide-legged floral trousers as well. Takada’s ribbon dress was also recreated for the H&M collaboration, as were the brand’s classic logo sweatshirts featuring a circle of lettering and a tiger leaping through the center.

Courtesy of Vogue

Long, flowing peasant dresses too, were covered in the brand’s favored print, styled with split-toe socks and sandals. The tiger-striped sock boots that stomped on the Pier 39 runway were the collection’s staple as they were paired with similarly printed wool leggings and leopard-printed bomber jackets.

Courtesy of Vogue

Patchworks of leopard designed kimonos and dresses were also featured in the unique collection, as were the prints of lush, Japanese florals pieced together as ruffled dresses, long-sleeved crop tops and full length skirts.

Courtesy of Vogue

Perhaps, the star of the collection was a ruffle layered dress, whose tiger, leopard and florals prints majestically swished and twirled down the runway.

Courtesy of H&M


The Kenzo designers, however, managed to effortlessly overtop the “over-the-top,” despite having large shoes to fill after H&M’s previous collaboration with French fashion house and Kardashian-approved luxury brand, Balmain.

Under the direction of Olivier Rousteing, Balmain’s H&M collection caused quite the spectacle in New York last season, with his “Balmain Army” of supermodels, Alessandra Ambrosio, Gigi Hadid, Joan Smalls, Jourdan Dunn and Kendall Jenner (to name a few), in full force, and an unexpected reunion of the Backstreet Boys.

It was the epitome a ’90s girl’s dream!

However, the collection maintained a unique balance between street-inspired garments and eccentric items for both men and women to shop at an H&M price in the beginning of November.

“It’s really kind of a dream come true to do this,” Leon said. “We wanted to actually make a really specific brand for H&M. There’s a freedom to Kenzo that is very different than most Parisian brands in general. I think that Kenzo Takada really started the brand with this kind of youthful spirit and having fun and community. … We took the brand back to its original form.”


The lineup was embraced by the crowd of celebrity attendees, compelling the likes of Iman, Lupita Nyong’o and Joe Jonas to join in on the massive crowd of energy exuded by the model’s dancing and the clothes’ electricity.

Similar to Rousteing, Lim and Leon had their rat-pack of influential celebrities as well, who despite not walking in the show, provided inspiration for the collection. Along with Iman, Chance the Rapper, Chloë Sevigny, Rosario Dawson, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Suboi and Xiuhtezcatl Martinez stood as the stars of the Kenzo x H&M campaign.

SEPB2-16-TL-Stars-of-Kenzo-x-HM-campaign-2.jpgCourtesy of H&M

The metaphorical conversation between the three designers was truly harmony, one Takada would certainly approve of.


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