Joining Kenzo in 2003 and effectively reimagining the womenswear line, Antonio Marras graduated to overall creative director of the label, originally set up in the 70s by Kenzo Takada, in 2008. Given full artistic direction on all aspects of the brand, adding childrenswear, homeware, accessories and menswear to his previous output, Marras has firmly taken hold of Kenzo and molded it in his own vision.
His first menswear show, which graced the catwalk back at the beginning of this year, was a directional collection that laid the groundwork for Marras’ concept. Describing the ethos behind his ‘Kenzo universe’ as being “not about a Kenzo family but more about a Kenzo tribe” Marras sees the Kenzo man as someone “…who has a kind of natural twisted elegance, a modern take on the dandy; a man who can make a classical style unique”.
True to his vision, this season’s menswear collection has taken 19th century explorer Pierre de Brazza as the starting point. De Brazza is credited with being the man that discovered the Congo through one of his many self funded expeditions, and a gentleman that played by his own rules. Seeing out his quest for new lands and a further understanding of the world on his own terms, “Pierre de Brazza was someone that travelled in a very humane way and was very much respectful of the local people. He was an idealist and for this reason he was the perfect Kenzo man, a cosmopolitan dandy” says Antonio.
Taking inspiration from the images conjured up when he thought of travelling across the desert, Marras has incorporated this aesthetic both in the choice of palette – muted hues “as if the colours were faded away by the sun, by the wind and the sand” – and in the styling, shape and volume of the garments. Looser yet still beautifully tailored soft cotton blazers and jackets combine with washed knits and wider, ankle length linen trousers, to give off a relaxed yet elegant feel. An image that is very much akin to the romantic vision associated with late 19th and early 20th century British colonials.
Grey’s, off white’s, khaki and washed out slate blue all feature heavily in the collection, lifting the clothes and allowing them to stand out while at the same time being understated and refined. Across the collection detailing includes elaborate yet masculine floral and leaf prints, multiple pockets and buttons adding a very slight military feel along with draped, low-slung collars. “I wanted the clothes to look as if they were exposed to the sun and the wind for hours, so overall they look looser and older. I wanted to associate more fitted cuts with more comfortable pieces to create contrasts. It is the wardrobe of an explorer; it has to be comfortable and therefore looser. In my head these clothes are a part of ‘him’ so they carry the signs of his life, his marching and trekking through the desert” explains Antonio.
Kenzo has always been a label with personality, a look that is at the same time classic and accessible while maintaining a connection to themes at the forefront of each season’s mood. Marras is very much aware of this heritage of the label and the aesthetic with which Kenzo has always been associated, but concurrently acknowledges the direction in which he wants to take it. “There are things I absolutely want to take forward with me from Kenzo’s history. For instance the mixing of different cultures, what the French call the “métissage”, and the “joie de vivre” philosophy of the brand. I never wanted to make a revolution at the label, but at the same time I want to take Kenzo into modernity, yet keeping all of its codes and values. It is a very special house with a unique DNA and I have always thought I had to continue it, not erase it” divulges Marras. “Brands are nothing without a strong identity. Everyone can make nice clothes nowadays; brands have to give more than just nice design. They have to offer a vision, a universe, and a signature. Kenzo has always had strong values and heritage, but now it is my turn with the house and I’m just trying to take them forward, in my own way”.