Kenzo Eyes Retail Return to U.S.

Romain Mayoussier/Getty Images
Carol Lim and Humberto Leon

Designer Humberto Leon said Fashion Month is "one big run-on sentence" when addressing critics of the brand's theatrical shows.

Kenzo traditionally throws some of the best bashes — from an '80s punk prom theme to a taco truck feast a few seasons back — and this year, the second of its Fashion Week fetes was to celebrate the opening of its new Marais store.

Kenzo presented its collection Thursday as the intermission of a traditional Japanese Kagura performance. It made for good Instagram, but left some editors grumbling at the hour-plus running time. Designer Humberto Leon addressed the critics, saying it was needed to stand out in a crowded Fashion Month.

“We’ve been really thinking about what the experience is and I know that for a lot of journalists, it might be easier to come in and come out, but in many ways I feel like Fashion Week is such a big run-on sentence," he told Pret-a-Reporter. "When I’ve gone to shows as a buyer, the shows are formatted in a way that you see 400 shows in a season. I try to think about what will be a lasting memory — whether it’s a good memory or not, I want people to remember the collection, so I’m trying to hark it back to what is the takeaway and one’s experience.”


A post shared by KENZO (@kenzo) on

Leon argued that for Kenzo, every aspect has to do with the house’s history and is not just for entertainment’s sake.

“That’s the biggest differentiation that I really want to make because I do feel like there are a lot of people that are doing experience just for shock value that doesn’t relate back to the overarching story,” he added.

The house brought over a troupe of dancers from Hiroshima, Japan, for the performance. “It was a really traditional [dance] from the 1800s and it was amazing," said Leon. "The Japanese journalists had never even seen that!”

The Marias store is the sixth in Paris alone, while the brand has been missing from the U.S. for two decades. Leon said they plan to bring it back to the U.S. by 2020, but haven’t nailed down a specific plan. “We are going to bring it back in a big way. Nothing is cookie-cutter with us, so it’s all going to be very localized and very strategic one by one,” he said.

New York and Los Angeles are in the works, Leon said, and they are actively searching for spaces. Still, the unconventional brand is not tied to the fashion hubs: “We are very particular in the way we want things, but we are just looking for a cool location — it could be in San Francisco or Miami first.”