Kenzo Fall 2019 Read-To-Wear

Ayahuasca hasn’t become the zeitgeist-y drug of Paris the same way it’s reportedly been embraced by people in Silicon Valley and Brooklyn. Today, in the bowels of the Louvre’s shopping concourse, the Kenzo show conjured up a stylized version of its hallucinogenic effects for guests—and it made for quite the trip.

First the men’s, then the women’s collections played out against the backdrop of wildly illustrated murals by the late artist and shaman Pablo Amaringo, with music that was traditional yet trancelike. Many of the visions were intensely saturated and collided urban with expedition elements—hot pink suits, pinstripe outerwear that glinted silver, polar fleece in optical patterns, and a whirling atmospheric motif that was unearthed from the archive.

But the real point of departure actually emerged from an idea very close to home: Humberto Leon’s father’s Chinese-Peruvian heritage. In the mid-19th century, people of Chinese ancestry settled in Peru; they are referred to as Tusán and they now number in the millions. Leon said he still has family there and flew them over for the occasion.

They would have likely recognized some of the traditional garments, creatively updated: pollera skirts, now boasting drawstrings and worn with puffer jackets; hot pink ponchos in waterproof technical fabrics; and blanket plaids as workwear shirts or sweater dresses. The season’s statement print appropriated the bags used to import rice; pairing it with pieces in papery leather elevated it to art party attire. The same could be said of all the pieces bordered in brightly colored faux fur—floppy flats included, although it’s worth considering they might lose their novelty (and their brilliant veneer) quite fast.

When the collections considered the references in an everyday way, however, the looks often proved dynamic. The new Tali handbag, with its blinking-eye hardware, winked back to Leon and Carol Lim’s blockbuster eye graphic from ’13, and compared with the serious lady bags elsewhere, it was fun and fresh. As they are so identifiable, it will be interesting to see who ends up carrying them.

Most interesting of all was how Leon and Lim connected the personal nature of these collections back to the activism that they are usually so comfortable expressing. But instead of a call to action, they seemed to touch upon the movement of peoples as a fully integrated, multicultural adventure. Leon said that everything crystallized organically: “We kind of evolve as the world evolves. And when I think about things I feel are important to us, it’s nice to talk about them with genuine context.” And, no doubt, a clear mind.