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Kenzo Takada

Kenzo Takada (28) Celebrating a fresh start

Retiring from 'Kenzo,' I bring the curtain down on 30 years and begin recharging

| Japan
Me at my final show

My broken heart would not heal. My dream, too, had vanished.

It was late June 1993. Having had my "gentleman's agreement" with LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton broken, I promptly tendered my resignation and stubbornly refused to return to the company.

Various associates of mine were worried and came to see me at my home. The first of these were leading fashion consultant Jean-Jacques Picart and designer Christian Lacroix. Picart was also an adviser to LVMH head Arnault. I was delighted, because both were my friends. But once I started to think "Maybe this was Arnault's idea," I couldn't get the idea out of my head.

In August, I read in the newspaper that Francois Beaufume would move from being president of Kenzo to president of Christian Dior, which was also under LVMH's umbrella. It appears Arnault had belatedly decided to make this change. But the clouds would not lift from my heart so easily.

Going out with a bang

The fall show was approaching.

I was 60 years old, I had been in business for 30 years, and a new century was dawning

"Let's do it together." The studio employees who had been with me over the many years, through good times and bad, came to my home to persuade me to keep working. I'm weak against such entreaties. As might be expected, my heart was swayed. Since it was no use to resist, I grudgingly decided to continue doing shows -- but nothing else -- for the company.

On Oct. 7, 1999 -- six years after the drama of the business's sale -- we opened what was to be my final show as a designer at Kenzo. In fact, I had made up my mind a year earlier that this would be my swan song. 

I was 60 years old, I had been in business for 30 years, and a new century was dawning. It seemed to be a good time to close that chapter of my life so I could make a fresh start.

The scene of "Jungle Jap," the boutique I had opened 30 years before, decorated with motifs from Henri Rousseau's painting "The Dream," crossed my mind as though it had been only yesterday.

"Tears don't suit me," I thought. "I want the end to be fun, like fireworks, with excitement and revelry."

It was the culmination of 30 years. I got people who had been a big help to me to make appearances, and I introduced some 300 works on different themes. The show went on for two full hours. Fortunately, because the event was planned with merrymaking in mind, the mood didn't devolve into gloomy sentimentalism.

"Why did you quit? Our rivalry will end ... ."

Yves Saint Laurent, whom I had always admired, paid me a visit at my home to express his profound disappointment. I cannot forget the profile of Yves, who seemed to be terribly lonely.

Following that, I began a life of recharging. That's because as part of my contract with LVMH, I had promised not to work anywhere else for two years. Eyeing a fresh start, I set about improving myself through exercise and such pursuits as language, computers and painting. I was also afraid of having nothing to fill my time.

I retired from Kenzo, but that didn't mean I quit being a fashion designer. In 2002, I started working as one again.

"Kenzo Takada returns as an LVMH partner designer." In May of that year, in a strange turn of events, some media outlets began running this false story. To be certain, I was pursuing some projects, but I was cooperating with French retailer Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (now Kering), a longstanding rival of LVMH. The story got it completely wrong.

Partnering with PPR's mail-order house, I published the catalog "Yume" (Dreams) and began selling ready-made apparel, as well as interior and miscellaneous goods.

I was also receiving very small investments from LVMH, but I did not have the least intention of becoming a contracted designer. I went so far as to issue a statement denying such reports from certain media outlets.

I had somehow fallen into an uncomfortable situation that made chasing my "dream" rather difficult. 

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

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