Denim jeans, a staple in any person’s closet. On October 4th, popular denim brand, Levi’s, released their collection in collaboration with fashion brand KENZO. With the help of KENZO’s creative director, Nigo, they made garments familiar to us all, yet different enough to spark interest and look beyond the Eurocentric idea of fashion.
A quick history on Levi’s
Levi Strauss, a German immigrant, came to San Francisco in 1853. During that time, a Gold Rush was happening on the West Coast. People from all over the world travelled to find gold inside the Californian mines. Strauss recognised that these people needed clothes that lasted, which led him to create the first denim overalls in 1873. We now call them classic blue jeans.
After which, jeans took off in popularity. Everyone wears jeans. Now, Levi Strauss & Co. is one of the biggest apparel companies in the world. This is no advertisement for Levi’s, but an overview explains the impact the brand has had on the fashion industry and the way we dress ourselves. Denim is utilitarian as it is fashionable.
KENZO is a French fashion brand founded by a the Japanese Kenzo Takada in 1970.
If one were to think about KENZO, one’s first thought wouldn’t be denim, but bright prints and patterns. However, denim has always played a part in KENZO’s history. The founder of the brand, Kenzo Takada, had always used denim in his collections. Under the creative director of Japanese designer, Nigo, he has taken Takada’s love for denim and has taken it to a new level in his recent collections for the brand. The denim garments revitalised KENZO and brought it back into the conversation of ready-to-wear fashion.
KENZO under Nigo combines Western sensibilities with Japanese silhouettes to create unique, fashionable garments. Japanese denim with Americana accents that everyone is familiar with draws the attention of the masses.
Furthermore, the West’s current interest in Asian cultures makes Levi’s collaboration with KENZO a smart move. Not only are many fashion houses looking at Korean celebrities to appoint them as ambassadors, there is also a general intrigue for movies, music and art from East Asia.
Conversely, luxury brands pay a lot of attention to the Middle East, China, Japan and Korea as they are more willing than Western countries to splurge on luxury goods. There’s symbiosis between East and West—exactly what KENZO conveys through their clothing.
In short: it’s a lucrative market to tap into.
From consumer to producer
As mentioned above, the buying power of several Asian countries is interesting to fashion houses. However, it paints Asia only as the consumer. While the fashion industry gives space to Japanese designers during fashion week, the public’s opinion is quite different. One wouldn’t associate Asian designers and Asian fashion with luxury fashion.
That is why collaborations such as these, between Levi’s and KENZO, are important. It highlights the fresh way in which designers interpret a classic staple. It’s denim, again, but different. That difference shifts fashion’s gaze away from its inherent eurocentrism. While KENZO is a French fashion brand, it was founded by a Japanese designer and is currently directed by one. KENZO’s history and legacy is East-Asian.
If KENZO can rethink the denim jeans and make it appear new, what else can underrepresented voices from other regions of the world create? That’s a conversation that ought to be held, now and in the future.