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Kenzo Takada

Kenzo Takada (21) A dramatic 10th anniversary

I was forced to dismiss a business partner who nearly left me bankrupt

| Japan
At the Le Sept disco

On Jan. 23, 1980, I suddenly dismissed my co-manager, Gilles Raysse. It was my 10th year since going independent.

At the time, I owned 55% of my company and another founding member, pattern maker Atsuko Kondo, owned 15%. The remaining 30% was owned by Gilles. Because I was the majority stakeholder, nobody could say anything about my decision.

Gilles was a kindhearted person who laughed much and cried much. I got along well with him. In particular, he was well-known in cultural and performing arts circles, and it was thanks to him that I got to meet such luminaries as Andy Warhol and Antonio Lopez Garcia.

Moreover, his wife was leading fashion model Carol La Brie. She modeled often for me, as she perfectly fit the image of my fashions. Owing to her connections, I was able to get many popular models to help at my shows. Teaming up with Gilles was a major reason I was able to ride this wave. I was very lucky in that regard.

But our relationship began to sour around 1977. Gilles's high-handed ways, treating the company as if it were his own, became obvious. For instance, he hired friends and acquaintances as he pleased, and paid them exorbitant salaries. There was absolutely no consultation with me on this.

By 1980, a company that surely needed no more than 40 employees had more than 60

By 1980, a company that surely needed no more than 40 employees had more than 60. There was no way we could turn a profit under these conditions. When I later had our accounting books examined, I was told that we had been teetering on the verge of bankruptcy.

I reached the point where I couldn't put up with it any longer and called Gilles to my room.

"Stop making major decisions on your own. If you don't, we won't be able to work together any more."

But he didn't take my warning seriously, or try to change his attitude.

I had no choice but to act.

I hired an attorney and a management consultant and began making preparations to let Gilles go. This apparently came as a complete surprise to him. He resisted at first, but reluctantly accepted his dismissal. But something unbelievable would happen just a short time later.

In the midst of preparing for a show, I received an anonymous phone call: "I've placed a time bomb at the venue. You better evacuate." It was a bomb threat. The venue was in total chaos. We hurriedly evacuated the models, who were busy putting on makeup, and had the venue checked for suspicious objects.

"Is everything all right? This is a really raw deal. Who would do such a thing?" Sayoko Yamaguchi, a Japanese model who always appeared in my shows, asked with a puzzled face. I suspected it might be the work of someone in Gilles's camp, but I had no proof. All I could do was bow my head and apologize to everyone.

Nightlife shake-up

It felt like everything was going off the rails around this time. There was also a major change in the nightclub scene.

Our daily playground was a disco named Le Sept. Every time I met the owner, I would pester him with a request. "I want you to open an enormous disco in Paris, one as big as Studio 54 in New York."

Le Sept was a fun place, but compared to Studio 54, it was extremely small. And so in 1978 the nightclub Le Palace opened. It was the largest club in the city and instantly became a Paris legend.

It was an honor for me to be asked to arrange the first party put on by patrons. The theme was "crossdressing" -- the men would dress as women and the women would dress as men. Borrowing the apartment of Karl Lagerfeld, who was like a big brother to me, a group of around 30 of us put on our costumes and did our makeup.

"Good evening, Kenzo," I heard someone say. It turned out to be Mick Jagger in drag. I was friends with Mick through Jerry Hall, the model he was in a relationship with. Sober, he was surprisingly subdued and quite. But his presence at the party outshone all others.

We all danced until dawn.

It was a wonderful era, when even putting on a drunken revelry counted as work.

Kenzo Takada is a fashion designer known for his eponymous label Kenzo, which he left in 1999.

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