H&M has become one of the most powerful high street brands in the world of fashion. With every collaboration, the style stakes are raised to new heights. Now, Kenzo is at the helm of the latest H&M campaign. We talk to both sides of this dream team about the freedom of fashion, the creative process and the synergy between the brands…
Kenzo’s Creative Directors Humberto Leon & Carol Lim
What is it about H&M that sits well within the KENZO aesthetic?
Humberto Leon: We were so excited to be asked to collaborate with H&M. They do such a great job of celebrating the brands that they work with, and don’t ever want any compromise on the collections – they want the true DNA of KENZO. H&M really understand the fun of fashion, and want to make style attainable for everyone.
What kind of pieces can we expect? And what kind of person do you see wearing them?
Carol Lim: KENZO x H&M is like a conversation between us and Kenzo Takada, who founded the brand. We wanted to look at the archives through our own eyes, clashing together prints, colours and global influences to create pieces that will only ever be available through KENZO x H&M. We’re so excited to see who buys which piece – we love that there’ll be people buying their first ever piece of KENZO through the collaboration, as well as those who may have bought Mr Takada’s designs the first time around.
What is the a ultimate aim of this collaboration? Are you aiming to tap into a different market of customers? Perhaps younger? Why is that?
CL: There are so many people who only know our take on KENZO. They don’t know about the history of the brand, or the incredible legacy of Mr Takada. He was such a visionary designer who broke all the rules in 70s and 80s Paris. He had such freedom in his attitude to style, and we wanted to share that sensibility with a whole new generation around the world.
Tell us about the process and how this collaboration was approached in the first instance?
HL: We’ve been in conversation with H&M about collaborating for a couple of years, and it was great that they were happy to wait till the time was right for us. The process has been really clear and straightforward. We talked about what the collection will be like, and then they left us alone to design it how we wanted. They produced the samples, which were so exciting to see for the first time. We then fitted the collection until we reached the final samples and the finished collection.
What direction do you hope to take KENZO to via this collaboration?
CL: This is the first time that we’ve ever truly played with the archives, making it a special one-off collection. Even if you regularly wear KENZO, you’re going to find pieces in KENZO x H&M that you’ve never seen anywhere else before. It’s a special chance for us to celebrate the brand, and give everyone the chance to play with their style.
H&M’s Creative Advisor Ann-Sofie Johansson
How do you think this collaboration with KENZO will add more value to the H&M DNA – you’ve done many collaborations (namely with Balmain) so how will this particular brand bring out the essence of H&M?
We love to give our customers a totally new experience with our designer collaborations, something completely different. I love that in the past three years, we’ve had the urban sportswear of Alexander Wang, the new glamour of Balmain and now the playful energy of KENZO. From the beginning, our collaborations have been about breaking down the walls of fashion, giving people the chance to own clothes by designers they may not usually get to wear. We’re so happy with KENZO x H&M and can’t wait for it to reach the stores.
H&M has always been seen as an accessible, high street brand. Are you wanting to create a more high fashion appeal by collaborating with luxury brands?
It has been so exciting to be able to bring designer fashion to a whole new audience, and to break down the old barriers that used to exist. It’s been great to discover that what we all have in common is a love of fashion, and a desire to share that with the world. We love that our customers get to experience these different worlds, and to have in their wardrobe, pieces by designers they would never normally get to wear, all through their collaboration with H&M.
What are you wanting to give the H&M customer out of this collaboration?
Our designer collaborations are for anyone who loves fashion. It’s really exciting to think that there’ll be some teenagers who will be getting their first ever piece by KENZO, and maybe their first ever taste of designer fashion, through KENZO x H&M. Then there’ll be all the fans of KENZO around the world who have loved Carol and Humberto’s take on the brand since they started in 2011. They’ll want to get an exclusive design from KENZO x H&M that they’ll never be able to get anywhere else. It’s also exciting to think that there might be original customers of Kenzo Takada who will be buying pieces that will be like mementos for them of how they used to dress. We can’t wait to see how people wear KENZO x H&M in their own way.
You’ve been doing brand collaborations for over a decade now. Why do you think they’ve been so successful?
It’s amazing to think that when we started our designer collaborations, there were so many barriers in fashion. It’s been great to see those walls be broken down, and to let everyone in the world share in the experience. With each of our collaborations, we want to give our customers access to a whole new designer world, and to have pieces by designers they may not usually get to wear.
What is the synergy between the two brands in terms of the aesthetics for this exclusive collection? How did this collaboration bring out the true H&M spirit?
KENZO have been so generous in giving us a collection that goes deep into their archive. It’s amazing to be able to give our customers a piece of fashion history with our collaborations, and with KENZO x H&M, Carol and Humberto are mixing their own look with that of the brand’s founder, Kenzo Takada. The result is something very special, bringing fashion history to life and creating pieces that have both historical significance and also a present day sense of fun and energy.