A Farewell to Humberto Leon & Carol Lim – Take a Look Back At Their Highlights at Kenzo
Just as we thought the fashion game of musical chairs was on a break… To the disappointment of Ten Towers, Carol Lim and Humberto Leon were announced to be departing the house of Kenzo on the back of their upcoming SS20 menswear show in Paris. After eight rich years with incredible shows, terrific collections and one revival of an archival house, Leon and Lim are parting ways with LVMH. Without much information as to why (the brand has been steadily reaching annual revenues of between 300 million and 400 million euros), the creative vision of the American duo we first fell in love with through Opening Ceremony is going elsewhere. Or so we hope. Their unapologetic dedication to joy will be missed otherwise.
“I still follow the work of Kenzo and I feel privileged to see such a great team continuing the progress; Humbert Leon, Carol Lim and LVMH are currently doing a great job changing their target to a younger generation. I do believe that there is a part of my creativity that still exists within the brand’s identity,” the founder of Kenzo, Mister Kenzo Takada told us in an interview honouring the launch of his recent book. With the celebration of the house’s 50th anniversary fast approaching, it’s important to recognise the vast efforts Lim and Leon made at recreating the same spirit that turned the brand into a global name decades before. As soon as they got behind the reigns at Kenzo in 2011, the duo showed a focused idea of commercialising the brand without losing the creativity. In fact, they reminded us why we fell in love in the first place. Electric colours, strong prints (mixed and matched), silhouettes referencing the olden times but streamlined into modernity… This was a match made in heaven and the world’s excitement about this tenure was instant. But it’s not only the house they modernised – their work at Kenzo modernised the fashion industry as a whole.
Just like it was the case with Takada, the work of Carol Lim and Humberto Leon had a sense of community which wasn’t always apparent in the cut-throat industry that is fashion. Working with actors like Chlöe Sevigny, Natasha Lyonne, and the rest of their NYC gang, they created beyond the catwalk. Films, performances, events… Kenzo once again became a lifestyle brand you could enjoy by just observing. And whenever you decided to buy into it, there was plenty to choose from. Their first ever show at the house for the AW12 collection debuted knitwear and sweatshirts printed with Tiger faces, a symbol which ended up becoming the symbol of the era. Who didn’t (want to) own one of those? For those with a lesser budget, there were caps and other accessories, including a stellar collaboration with Vans. Once again, they were ahead of the game as ideas of luxury houses collaborating with mass brands weren’t an everyday occurrence then. They offered merch and logos in a way that was chic; without making you feel like a walking advertisement
Kenzo Takada’s final ever show took place in the arena in Paris in 1999. It was grand to an unseen level, with only some of Lagerfeld’s later shows at Chanel measuring up to the scale. In addition to the colour and prints, Lim and Leon also brought back the fun all of Takada’s shows were infused by. Sometimes co-ed, others divided – shows were opportunities to create a dialogue with the audience, using alternative formats like films and theatre to show their vision. And then there was the La Collection Memento line, presenting experiential shows out of the norm. Dancers in place of models during the last Paris Fashion Week were just the perfect swan song, even if we didn’t know at the time.
There is plenty amazing moments to remember – their collaboration with H&M, the entirely Asian cast for SS18, Humberto Leon’s directorial debut starring Milla Jovovich in place of a campaign… As souvenirs, we will not only cherish the clothes we own, but also the incredible campaigns created in collaboration with legendary artists such as David Lachapelle, Spike Jonze, Jean Paul Goude… Remember Britney Spears as the face of their second La Collection Memento? Iconic doesn’t even cover it.
We can admit one thing: their incredible enthusiasm was often taken for granted, like it will always be there and ready for us to indulge in. Sadly, that isn’t the case. With teary eyes and broken hearts, we look forward to seeing their final ever collection at Kenzo next Sunday, June 23rd.
Scroll the gallery above for 10 of our favourite looks from Humberto Leon and Carol Lim’s collections at Kenzo.