07/11/2013 08:08 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 10:53 GMT

Why Are We So Excited About Kenzo?


Photo: tangi_bertin/Flickr

If you ask anybody who was aged between 14 and 19 in the year 2000 what 'Kenzo' means to them, there's almost no question they'll tell you about FlowerbyKenzo, the iconic perfume that - along with Tommy Girl, Cool Water and Red Jeans - defined a generation. That willowy bottle shape and iconic poppy became synonymous with the brand, overshadowing - at least for most - the fact that Kenzo Takada, the man behind the scent, had by that point been designing womenswear for almost 40 years.

Perhaps FlowerbyKenzo is the prevailing memory of most because it's simply the most memorable thing that came out of the confusing decade that followed Takada's retirement from the brand in 1999. However, in July 2011, the fashion world greeted with actual jubilation (well, the fashion equivalent, which amounts to some polite applause and a news piece on the news that dynamic design duo - and masterminds behind cult label Opening Ceremony - Humberto Leon and Carol Lim would be taking over at the top. And takeover they certainly did. Three years and several ecstatically-received collections later Lim and Leon have made Kenzo a fashion favourite once again.

At the top of their game, last month saw the pair execute a seamless 'coup de grâce', concreting the brand's fashion status as back and bigger than ever. In an underground skate park jam-packed with the very best and the most beautiful from the incongruous worlds of fashion and skateboarding, the brand did the unthinkable. Amidst the flash of camera-bulbs, and the whirr of wheels against the wooden half-pipe boards, Kenzo unveiled the 'Kalifornia' and resurrected the 'It Bag'.

Declared a 'dead' trend by Celia Walden in 2011, the 'It Bag' had preceded over most of the 90s and much of the 00s. The Paddington, the Motorcycle, the Birkin and the Alexa - all must-haves with must-have price tags, the ultimate status symbol.

Angular, edgy and ultra-cool, much like its creators, Kenzo's Kalifornia bag seems like a unconventional contender for instant induction into the style hall of fame with 'It Bag' status. It's a cross-body, the most glaringly practical of bag styles. It comes in all kinds of colours that are probably only appropriate in California. It was launched underground - literally - surrounded by faces you'd recognise with names you wouldn't. Despite the lengths Lim and Leon have gone to keep this latest release strictly alt-cool, it's definitely up there with the mainstream star-pieces of Hermes and Mulberry.

In the same way that FlowerbyKenzo will eternally remind me of those lazy, long hazy summer days of 2002, I think that in ten years time, Lim and Leon's reinvention of Kenzo will be seen as symptomatic of fashion in 2013. In keeping the edge, the alternative, underground events, the wild styling, the iconic and, try though you might, Zara - inimitable motifs, Lim and Leon have developed the brand as the perfect example of how fashion has progressed.

Far from the singular 'It Bag' aesthetic of 1999, toted by anybody who was anybody in sleek uniformity, the majority of big brands in 2013 seem to aim for an endlessly blurred and duplicated and differentiated visual, providing each piece from each collection with a uniqueness that suits our new-found penchant for all things 'alternative'. Nobody does it better than Kenzo, with kooky animal prints, playful shapes and cutting-edge colour palettes at the heart of the brand's new direction. With their design aesthetic so 'now', it's no wonder we're excited to see what Kenzo do next.