Kenzo x H&M in designer collaboration
H&M will team up with Parisian fashion house Kenzo for this year’s designer collaboration. Find out what Creative Directors Carol Lim and Humberto Leon have to say about Kenzo x H&M.
Ever since the #HMBalmaination hysteria calmed down, we’ve been taking guesses on who will be the next H&M guest designer. And today – finally – H&M announced that its next designer collaboration will be with Kenzo. Launching worldwide in selected stores and online on November 3, the collection will feature clothes and accessories for both men and women.
H&M Magazine spoke to Creative Directors Humberto Leon and Carol Lim to find out more about Kenzo x H&M.
WHEN H&M CAME TO YOU WITH THIS IDEA, HOW DID YOU REACT?
Carol Lim: ”We were really excited. Obviously, we’re the latest in a line of a lot of incredible people. We were like, ‘We’re in great company!’”
WERE YOU NERVOUS?
Humberto Leon: ”No. We trust ourselves. And we trust each other. You know, I say, “What about this?” And Carol is like, ‘Well, what if we did it this way?’ It’s us, feeding off of each other.”
Carol Lim: ”I can really say we don’t get nervous anymore. We get excited—to start thinking, to start planning, to start asking ourselves, ‘Okay, so what do we want to talk about this time?’ What it comes down to is figuring out, okay, what message do we want to send with this collection?”
AND WHAT DID YOU DECIDE?
Humberto Leon: ”We wanted to really tell the story of the brand and of us. Together with H&M, we will invite all the customers and fans to the real Kenzo world.
We wanted to really tell the story of the brand and of us.
Humberto Leon, Creative Director, Kenzo
When pressed, even exuberant maximalists Humberto Leon and Carol Lim can pare down what drives them. Lim swears—it’s very simple. It’s what inspired them to launch global fashion emporium Opening Ceremony in 2002. It’s what spurred them to embrace new opportunities at KENZO, taking over the storied French fashion house in 2011. It’s the reason, Lim explains, that she and Leon said, “‘Yes,’ right away, ‘Yes’” to the chance to launch an H&M collaboration.
“Our philosophy is this,” Lim says. “We’re curious.” It’s a shared impulse—a fascination with newness, a reverence for tradition—that has united them from the start. Both students at the University of California, Berkeley, the two obsessed over clothes and food and art and music. “Even at the time, we were always trying to get to the bottom of what we loved—whether it was our favourite band or some dish we liked,” Lim remembers. “We care a lot and still care a lot about what is authentic.”
Leon and Lim wrapped up at school and moved to New York within six months of each other, working in fashion but not yet where they wanted to be in the business. “So, we took a trip to Hong Kong to visit in fact the friend who had introduced us in the first place,” Lim says. They fell for the pulse of the metropolis—a buzz that reminded them of New York. The place to them seemed to be full of people who “were just creating and putting themselves out there,” Lim says. “It felt like a very bubbling time in New York and in Hong Kong.” And Leon and Lim wanted in. By the time they landed in New York, the idea for Opening Ceremony had taken root. And what was once a downtown concept shop and cool-kid hang out has since evolved into a beloved multi-national tribe.
Kenzo noticed. Five years ago, executives in Paris tapped Leon and Lim to helm the atelier. The duo has pioneered their own idea of fashion ever since. Leon and Lim revel in the intrepid. They believe in the idiosyncratic. And while some may once have wondered what moved them to embroider a tiger face onto a sweatshirt and send it down a runway, no one is puzzled anymore. Four years later, the sweatshirt is itself a fashion icon.
Kenzo really created a new way for women to dress.
Carol Lim, Creative Director, Kenzo
Leon and Lim still like to think of themselves as outsiders, especially in France and at least because it’s a stance that befits the brand. Kenzo Takada stormed Paris in 1970 to launch the label. He, too, Lim stresses, was once a fresh face on the scene.
“He was the first Asian designer to come into Paris and design for women,” Lim says. “Kenzo really created a new way for women to dress.” His clothes bloomed with colour. They were explosive. They made, Leon adds, an impression. More even than his exact silhouettes or patterns, it’s that spirit of enthusiasm that Leon and Lim have carried over into their own collections for Kenzo. “At the end of the day, the product has to be amazing and people have to want to buy it and wear it—not just for the story, but for how it looks on,” Leon says. “People nowadays have so many options for what they want to wear and how they want to express themselves and that’s great. It just means we have to be that much more attentive and to continue to makes clothes that people can get excited about.”
Ann-Sofie Johansson, Creative Advisor at H&M, has no doubt they’ll pull it off. “We can’t wait to share with everyone the world of Kenzo x H&M with all of its creativity, fun and love of fashion,” she said.
The future—it looks bright.
AT H&M AND AT KENZO, WHAT DEFINES A COMPLETE COLLECTION? HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU’VE NAILED IT?
Humberto Leon: ”We like to make sure each piece [in the collection] has its own value and feels special, but at the same time that the collection as a whole feels really united. That means people should be as excited to own a t-shirt as they are to own a dress. Each piece should feel deliberate.”
Carol Lim: ”Yes, and, overall, it’s always about realising strengths and weaknesses. We know what we’re good at and what we can bring. We know what the team at Kenzo is good at and what they can do. We try to give everyone that space to be creative. And then it becomes about letting there be a dialogue between those perspectives. Sometimes, it’s really easy. And sometimes, it’s hard because there are multiple points of view involved. But that’s good! Ultimately, you work it out.”
WHO’S YOUR DREAM CUSTOMER FOR THE COLLECTION?
Carol Lim: ”I think a dream customer is a new customer. We don’t have one girl in mind. And we never have. The more people that discover the brand and come to love the rich history behind the brand and what we’ve created—to us, that’s exciting.”
We can’t wait to share with everyone the world of Kenzo x H&M.
Ann-Sofie Johansson, Creative Advisor, H&M
YOU’VE WORKED TOGETHER FOR ALMOST 15 YEARS NOW AND FIVE YEARS AT KENZO. HOW HAVE YOUR INDIVIDUAL ROLES EVOLVED OVER TIME?
Humberto Leon: ”Funnily, we started out with our own separate roles, but I think over time we’ve sort of merged our responsibilities.”
Carol Lim: ”It’s like when you play that video game, Galaga. Two spaceships can join together and become a bigger and more powerful spaceship. That’s us!”
AT THE END OF THE DAY, HOW DO YOU FORCE YOURSELVES TO UNWIND?
Carol Lim: ”Humberto has twin girls and I have two young kids myself, so at the end of the day, we’re feeding, washing, and reading kids’ stories, which I secretly love. That feels like a really lucky end to the day. But it often doesn’t end at that point, because we pick up where we left off at work. Still, that break and that time with our families is really, really precious to me.”
”Even if it’s not traditionally relaxing, It’s a nice way to unwind. Or, it’s at least a different kind of labour than what we do during the day. The truth is, because Humberto and I have been friends for so many years, our work and all the projects that we do—we really have fun. We have a lot of fun. We’ve always said that when it isn’t fun anymore or we don’t see that we can contribute in a way that feels real and authentic and exciting anymore, we’ll do something else. But for now and for as far into the future as I can see, we love what we do. It’s just who we are as people. We like to do a lot.”
WORSHIPPERS OF COLOUR THAT YOU ARE, IS THERE ANY SHADE YOU SECRETLY HATE?
Humberto Leon: ”No way. We love them all. It’s just a matter of when the best moment is to release it into the world. All of them—their time will come.”
1939 Kenzo Takada is born in Himeji, Japan
1964 Kenzo Takada moves to Paris
1972 Kenzo holds his first fashion show in Paris
1983 Kenzo introduces menswear
1988 Kenzo launches his first perfume for women
1999 Kenzo Takada presents his final show
2003 Antonio Marras is hired as Artistic Director
2011 Carol Lim and Humberto Leon are appointed Artistic Directors
2016 On November 3, Kenzo x H&M launches worldwide