Why the Kenzo autumn/winter 2022 show at Paris Fashion Week was a big deal

The new collection launch at men's fashion week was Nigo's opening salvo for the house

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Not every designer can boast a front row of Ye (formerly Kanye West), Pharrell Williams and Tyler, the Creator for their first show at a house, but then not everyone is Nigo and not every show is for Kenzo.

The talent behind cult labels A Bathing Ape, Billionaire Boys Club – launched with Williams in 2003 – and Human Made, Nigo is already a major player in the fashion world, with a devoted following and an address book to kill for (it was Nigo who introduced Louis Vuitton to Virgil Abloh).

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, the crowds turned up to Paris Fashion Week on Sunday to see his first collection since being named artistic director of Kenzo in September 2021. His appointment marks not only a new direction, but also a return to the brand's roots, as Nigo, like founder Kenzo Takada, is Japanese, and the first Japanese designer to helm the label since it opened shop in 1970.

Despite his Japanese roots, Kenzo, who died in 2020 after contracting Covid-19, launched his brand in Paris, where it has remained. For Nigo, however, this was the perfect occasion to blend the best of both worlds, mixing Western ideas such as varsity jackets with Japanese indigo denim and side-fastening tops.

Nigo launched a co-ed collection for autumn/winter 2022 as part of Men's Fashion Week in Paris, drawing on the charmingly patchworked feel of early Kenzo, opening with a checked blanket coat over Black Watch tartan trousers and a delicate, embroidered cross body bag. The brand's famous poppy print appeared as an outline, and printed over full denim looks for men and women, while Kenzo's own sketches arrived as patterning on coats, suits and full skirts.

Subtle nods to Japanese heritage cropped up as side-fastened, wrapped tops that were incorporated into striped ticking dungarees and dress, and as a box-cut indigo jacket worn over a pinstripe suit.

Other versions arrived as a gingham apron, worn both open and tied around the waist, and even as a heavier wool swing coat for both genders. Elsewhere, more stripes arrived as dresses, mixed ad hoc with poppy fabric and polka dots, and as boating blazers under varsity jackets and berets.

It's an upbeat, almost preppy collection, as Nigo reworked cowboy shirts and baker boy hats, as well as aviation jackets and even an intarsia jumper in sunny yellow, with a giant poppy motif. The tiger head of Kenzo circa 2010s made a guest appearance on varsity sweatshirts, while countless different tartans popped up on trousers, tights and swishy skirts, edged in a Kenzo logo.

Filled with exuberant patterns and plenty of colour, Nigo’s opening salvo for Kenzo was fun-filled and very wearable, right down to the tiger head belt buckles. Brimming with nods to street culture and a palpable sense of optimism, it was a high-energy start to a new era at the house.

Updated: January 24, 2022, 12:34 PM