Creative Director Felipe Oliveira Baptista paid homage to Kenzō Takada in a triumph of liberating dance moves, contrasting patterns, and hypnotic colours

Text by: Gilda Bruno

“I want to be positive in times that are so insecure,” said Portuguese fashion designer Felipe Oliveira Baptista during his debut at the LVMH-owned fashion label back in February 2020. A year and a month on, the Creative Director appears to have preserved that same inspiring energy throughout the recurring lockdowns, as he also proved through the powerful staging of the brand’s Online Fashion Show last Friday.

Directed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch, Kenzo Always was an authentic celebration of the brand’s founding father where neon colours, flowery as well as geometrical prints, and exaggerated volumes united in a dance that mimicked Kenzō Takada’s longing for freedom in all its possible connotations. A digital presentation that demonstrated how the legacy of the Japanese designer continues to live while also providing the public with a convincing representation of Oliveira Baptista’s inimitable artistic genius. 

Kenzō Takada passed away on October the 4th 2020,” wrote the Creative Director in a letter accompanying the live-streamed presentation of Kenzo’s newest collection. “The news was abrupt, sudden, and unexpected. Our acquaintance was brief, nevertheless, it felt like I lost someone close to me. The following Monday I was back at work, still numb from the recent shock. Time to start working on the next collection. Where to start? How to transform the grieving into something positive, joyful, and free?

The answers to such questions were not long in coming. Checkered cape coats, flounced dresses, jumpsuits, and mixed-textile skirts fluttered in the air as the models hopped across the circular runway in a club-like atmosphere that made us reminisce of the good old times. Might’ve Oliveira Baptista gathered inspiration from Gaspar Noé’s Climax dance madhouse? Possibly. Still, what is certain is that the label’s FW21 digital presentation was nothing but an explosion of pure, uncontrollable, and overwhelming vitality: something that Takada would have loved. 


“Kenzō stood for freedom, joy, diversity, love of nature, and creating harmony out of contrasts,” further explained the brand’s Creative Director. “I wanted colour and print to reflect all of this. An offering to Kenzō of all things he cherished. Landscapes, hortensias, birds, chains, roses, stripes, pansies, tulips, and cocktail glasses… all mixed together in an imaginary colourful feast.”

A revisited, archive-based exploration of the label’s most incredible shows — dating all the way back to 1978-1985 — Kenzo Always was an attempt at restoring and preserving the original nature of fashion, characterised by an effortless, sensual, and emotional overtone, from the sign of the times. That of Oliveira Baptista is a mission that, having creativity at its core, serves as an ode to the unpredictability of life and its bravest protagonists: “the fearless, optimistic, and independent wanderers of the world,” as he described them himself. 

They run, dance, and celebrate in their lush textile armours. The joy and thrill of arriving somewhere new, unexpected, and untouched. A visceral yearning for life. A visceral lust for freedom. Kenzō  Takada Always.