“Shout-out to my man, Kenzo!” a slightly confused Ice Cube exclaimed at one point during his set at last night’s Kenzo x H&M event. While house founder Kenzo Takada hasn’t been involved with the line for quite a while, his rebel spirit was definitely present — and as an early adopter of mass collaborations (his line for the Limited was one of the first, back in 1984), he’d probably have approved.
But the show was unmistakably the work of Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, who tirelessly come up with new ways to tweak the fashion-show formula — whether it was this season’s Opening Ceremony pageant featuring a murderer’s row of female comedians, or the human-sculpture concept of their Kenzo show at Paris Fashion Week. Their H&M collection, which is heavy on bright colors, animal prints, and folkloric motifs even by Kenzo standards, called for a full-on extravaganza to match the OTT wares. And so they took over Pier 36, enlisting Jean-Paul Goude as creative director and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band and a cast of dancers to give the show the feeling of an art-school pep rally.
As with most of these events, the real audience is outside the venue, watching the livestream or following along on Instagram. And if the goal was to sell them on a tricky collection, it worked, making the whirling-dervish dresses and neon-print mash-ups feel joyful instead of challenging. It made you want to dress more audaciously.
Coolness is often predicated on exclusion — you can’t be in this room, you can’t get this limited-edition bag, you couldn’t possibly afford this collection — but one nice thing about Leon and Lim’s vision is that it has always been an inclusive one. They love to bring in unexpected collaborators and make their shows into happenings. In fact, when the runway portion ended, the dancers pulled audience members onto the floor, bar mitzvah–style, and attendees like Iman and Lupita Nyong’o could be seen shaking it alongside design assistants and cater waiters alike. That’s one way to democratize fashion.