Nigo’s sophomore collection for Kenzo is the modern East meets West uniform.
Tomoaki Nagao, more popularly known as Nigo, is pioneering many firsts: the first person appointed artistic director for the brand, and the first Japanese to take the creative lead since its founder Kenzo Takada. Thematically speaking, many firsts also take root in this second offering. While workwear and the icons of Americana are still a design constant, naval-inspired pieces by way of maritime scarves and sailor flap collars, cleverly melded into blazers as lapels and as extended overlaps in collegiate jackets lends an interesting Japanese—the armada aesthetic nested historically even their school uniforms are influenced— meets American spin to the pieces.
Another new iconography to spot in Kenzo’s—once lorded by tigers—jungle is Kenzo Takada’s favorite animal: the elephant. Another particular significance to this majestic creature? The Japanese word for it is Zō, as in Ken-Zo. Still on those easter eggs, a waistcoat covered in patches is made out of vintage labels not in production anymore, and the appliqued wildlife texturing the outings, referenced from archived graphic design. For those familiar with the workwear-meets-street leanings of Nigo this is the standard ‘the future is in the past’ credo but this new intermix with the playful and print-heavy codes of Kenzo is on another level of design that’s to be desired. Even now, with the second collection in, the refreshed Kenzo has had people a-buzz, excited, and most importantly, buying.
Between his Spring Summer 2023 show last June in Paris to this first big event in South East Asia held in Singapore’s ArtScience Museum, Nigo’s Kenzo has undeniably become the new outfit of choice for diverse individuals who share the spirit of youthful sensibility, an inclination towards graphics and design, and an obsession with denim. In other words, a new kind of cool for the cool kids. Present at the launch with their own personal spin on the Varisty Jungle collection were some style representatives from key Asia regions: Keung To from the boy band MIRROR of Hong Kong, fashion week favorite Yoyo Cao, and singer/actor Glenn Yong from Singapore, actor Off (Jumpol Adulkittiporn) from Thailand and from the Philippines, fashion and travel inspiration Laureen Uy who’s unapologetic use of color, pattern and perpetual youthfulness connects perfectly with the brand.
Vogue sits down with Laureen to talk about her personal relationship with Kenzo:
Tell us about your personal connection to Kenzo prior to collaborating.
I’ve always been a fan of Kenzo ever since I was in college. I remember saving up and buying bags back when I was younger (the “forever, no?” clutch and the flying tiger backpack) and using them to the point of overusing them. I bought a small one so I can use it for night-about-towns and a backpack so it’s a little bigger for work/trips. Kenzo’s designs are and have always been so daring and innovative— and that’s why I was and still am a fan of the brand.
What’s your takeaway from this Kenzo launch? Any interesting findings?
Everything about the launch was spot on. The ArtScience museum which they picked as the venue, the set design of blown-up Kenzo iconographies, the music, the guests, the collection— everything was perfectly mashed together to create a night full of fun and fashion. I loved that most of the guests were wearing the actual collection and it made me think of the endless possibilities on how I can style the Kenzo Varsity Jungle pieces. A personal favorite is the yellow patch vest which is actually made up of now-defunct labels from Kenzo across the decades.
What would you consider an essential Kenzo fashion item?
I recently got a black Kenzo tiger sweater and aside from it being an iconic Kenzo design, I think it’s something I can wear over and over again. I travel a lot for work and this will be for sure my go-to when I’m in transit. It’s black, easily a uniform and it’s timeless. As a plus, the print makes it fun, which suits my style and personality.
There is a combination of tradition and modernity within Nigo’s Kenzo. How have you incorporated it into your wardrobe?
I’ve totally embraced Nigo’s Kenzo collection into my closet now. The pieces are so playful with their elephant/tiger prints and the boldness of colors is an exclamation of confidence, an outgoing personality, and youthfulness. My style is very eclectic and that’s why the Kenzo Varsity Jungle pieces are definitely at home in my wardrobe.
What story does a Kenzo X Laureen Uy tell?
Whenever I style myself, I always lean toward colors and prints. Maybe it’s because my personality is also very cheerful and chaotic (in a good way). I like to be fun and I like to make a statement, and in a way, that’s what Kenzo is all about—bold, playful, and daring. When I wear Kenzo, it’s like an extension of my character and self-expression.