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In the Japanese garden of my Paris home
Kenzo Takada

Kenzo Takada (25) Selling shares to build a castle of my own

From an indoor pool to a tea room, I spared no expense in making my dream come true

| Japan

Business was going swimmingly. Reviews of my shows weren't bad either. What more could I want?

Still, there was something missing. Maybe, having focused too much on the business side of things, I had lost sight of my dream, just a bit.

The worry that perhaps I had fallen behind the times also gradually began to assail me.

They called it the Black Shock ...

It was 1981, and designers like Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons and Yohji Yamamoto had come to Paris to join the fray.

Kenzo could be targeted, too. We'd better be careful

The world was blown away by their avant-garde designs -- primarily black monotone, the pieces were asymmetrical, as if the fabric had been violently shredded.

It was a style completely different from that of my items, which were characterized by their bright colors.

A rapidly growing dream

It was sometime after this that I became caught up in the idea of building a "home." I think I was influenced by my life partner, Xavier, who was so familiar with architecture.

I had plenty of money for it.

This was thanks to my co-manager Francois Beaufume's abilities, and the value of my stake jumped when our company incorporated. It was the 1980s, and a fierce wind was blowing through the business side of the fashion industry. Brands were being bought up by companies with deep pockets.

The company that is now LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton bought the parent company of Christian Dior in 1984. Following that, it snapped up such companies as Louis Vuitton, Celine, Christian Lacroix and Givenchy.

"Kenzo could be targeted, too. We'd better be careful." Francois, my trusted pattern maker Atsuko Kondo and Xavier all made such comments, ironically enough.

Investors and banks with a keen nose for business opportunities approached me unofficially looking to buy shares. Of course I kept my guard well up. But, thinking just a little bit couldn't hurt, I tried selling a 4% stake.

I was astounded. An incredibly large amount of money had fallen into my lap all at once.

"If I sold some more shares, I might be able to build my own 'castle,' one that's not only gorgeous but also incorporates all of my aesthetic sensibilities," I thought.

My new dream began growing by leaps and bounds.

Xavier was totally on board with the idea. That would really clinch things if I could get Xavier involved, as he had seen much of the world's architecture. My funding would also double. For the first time in ages, I felt an exhilarating sense of excitement welling up from the bottom of my heart.

Without a doubt, my co-manager Francois looked on all of this coldly. It would end up leading indirectly to a confrontation between the two of us.

There was an ideal property near the Place de la Bastille. The entire block was occupied by one structure, and from the outside it looked like any other apartment building. Wouldn't everyone be surprised if on the inside there was a tea room and a Japanese garden with bamboo and golden carp swimming gracefully?

I like surprising people. I spent money like water to make our dream a reality ...

During construction, new ideas bubbled up one after another. The finished product incorporated a variety of elements, from modern architecture to the villa style of Southeast Asia. It had an indoor pool, a living room with a splendid view, a study, a tea room and more.

The building had three stories and a total floor space of 1,100 sq. meters. From Asian and Western art, antiques, and modern art, to Arita porcelain, lacquerware and tea utensils, I carefully selected items worthy of "my castle." The budget ballooned to three times the original amount. Construction ran into much trouble and ended up taking about seven years to complete.

The first phase was finished in December 1989. We invited around 50 people for a lavish celebration.

Little did I know that the biggest tragedy of my life was waiting in the wings ...

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

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