In a season preoccupied by fashion musical chairs, there was an unexpected buzz around one move in particular: Humberto Leon and Carol Lim of New York's wildly successful Opening Ceremony boutique taking the creative reigns of Kenzo. Leon and Lim are neither designers, nor stylists - although the inclusion of the latter is demonstration of the wide brief now engendered by the idea of a brand creative director - so their outlook was always likely to be different to any other in Paris.
First off the bat, the Kenzo Spring/Summer 2012 collection was great. Really great. Hot block colour, simple cuts, a poppy, peppy injection of print like a wire fence or net running through everything. Rather than riffing too much on any singular decade or theme, the seventies exoticania of Jungle Jap, for example - Leon and Lim focussed their attentions on sharp sportswear in vibrant hues. A saturated apple green with brick red, deep shades of cobalt and French navy mixed, a gorgeous papery cotton coat thrown over cerulean trousers. Well, Leon and Lim didn't actually do any of that ostensibly, they're creative directors and have assembled a design team to deal with actually making the clothes themselves. But the clean vision spoke volumes of what a strong creative direction can do.
If the clothes were great, they were nothing to think too much about. The 'Wow' factor was absent, but the 'Want' factor was there, in spades. If haute couture's appeal lies in its impossibility of technique, for these clothes it was their resolute realism. Women wanted to wear this right here and right now - which if we're entirely honest, isn't something Kenzo has felt for a while. The other terribly clever thing is that under Leon and Lim's direction, Kenzo will be lowering its price-point to make the garments more accessible. That makes great business sense, and it must be remembered that Leon and Lim as leading retailers will be giving the commerce at least as much consideration as the creative when it comes to those all-important design decisions. That's an interesting concept, but does raise a concern that, at some point those financial restrictions could cut off circulation to the creative. That, however, certainly wasn't a problem here.