Designer Kenzo Takada, founder of Kenzo, dies of Covid-19 aged 81

By Martin Goillandeau, CNN

Paris-based Japanese designer Kenzo Takada, famous for creating the international luxury fashion house Kenzo, died in Paris on Sunday due to Covid-19 related complications, a spokesperson for Takada’s luxury K-3 brand said in a statement sent to CNN. His death came in the midst of Paris Fashion Week, which, through a hybrid of physical and digital shows, has forged ahead despite rising Covid-19 cases in France.

“It is with immense sadness that the brand K-3 announces the loss of its celebrated artistic director, Kenzo Takada. The world-renowned designer passed away on October 4th, 2020 due to Covid-19 related complications at the age of 81 at the American Hospital, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France,” the statement read.

Kenzo Takada at his Autumm-Winter show in Paris on March 10, 1998. Credit: Daniel Simon/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

Kenzo Takada’s designs were a mix of loud colors and prints inspired by his worldwide travels. Credit: Pierre Vauthey/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images

In 1970, Takada rocked Paris with the debut of his namesake fashion line. Sold out of his first boutique, called Jungle Jap, his designs were a chaotic mix of loud colors and mismatched prints inspired by his travels.

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The world’s varied cultures would be a constant source of creativity — and everything from folk dresses to kimonos would be boldly reinterpreted for his runways. “There was much more of a cultural gap when you were traveling from one country to the next,” he told CNN in a 2019 interview, reminiscing about trips taken in the 1970s. “So that really drove me and gave me a lot of influence and inspiration to work on different things around my trips.”

On Paris, Takada would speak of its lasting influence. “A French way of working with fashion definitely influenced me and much later I started to blend other cultures into that specific fashion,” he said.

“Of course now, fashion is everywhere; in New York, Paris, Milan, London, Tokyo, everywhere. But I think Paris stays very important.”

Models wear bright colored suits with matching turbans by designer Kenzo Takada at his Autumn-Winter show in Paris, 1986. Credit: Pierre Vauthey/Sygma/Getty Images

The designer accompanied by two models down his Autumn-Winter runway in Paris, 1983. Credit: Pierre Vauthey/Sygma/Getty Images

The designer inaugurated his flagship store in the city’s Place des Victoires by 1976, and over the next three decades, he racked up numerous accolades and accomplishments — including a slew of magazine covers, the launch of a perfume empire and, in 1993, his brand’s purchase by luxury conglomerate LVMH — before retiring to pursue other creative projects in 1999.

Kenzo during one of his world travels which later inspired the brand’s collections. Credit: Kenzo Takada

“Kenzo Takada was incredibly creative; with a stroke of genius, he imagined a new artistic and colourful story combining East and West — his native Japan and his life in Paris,” Jonathan Bouchet Manheim, CEO of Takada’s K-3 brand, launched in January of this year, said in a statement.

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“I had the chance to work alongside him for many years, always in awe, admiring his curiosity and his open-mindedness. He seemed quiet and shy at first, but he was full of humour. He was generous and always knew how to look after the people close to his heart. He had a zest for life… Kenzo Takada was the epitome of the art of living,” he added.

Kristen Bateman contributed to this story.