Felipe Oliveira Baptista has been appointed as the new creative director of the LVMH-owned fashion house Kenzo, which was created in 1970 by the Japanese designer Kenzo Takada.
The Portuguese-born, Paris-based designer is best known for his role as the creative director at Lacoste, a position which he held for eight years until May 2018. In 2016, the brand surpassed €2bn in revenue, suggesting Baptiste has a commercial eye that impressed LVMH. His final collection for Lacoste, the French label traditionally associated with tennis, was inspired by 10 endangered species and was a partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Baptista will be taking over from Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, who started in fashion with Opening Ceremony, their New York-based brand founded in 2002. After eight years at the Kenzo helm, the Asian-American co-creative directors bid farewell to the brand with their final fashion show in Paris last month. The collection drew inspiration from Japan’s female free divers, known as ama and thought of as the “last mermaids”. There were sailor collars, iridescent embellishments and seashell anklets, and a performance from Solange Knowles.
Kenzo’s DNA has always been fun and imaginative, drawing on bright colours and bold prints. Baptista, at least during his time at Lacoste, has played things somewhat safer, with a more minimal sleek aesthetic. His tenure at Kenzo will likely be something of a step-change, ushering in a very different era.
Despite being well known for its bestselling garments decorated with embroidered or painted tigers, as well as garments emblazoned with giant “evil eyes”, Kenzo remains a relatively small player in terms of revenue, reportedly generating less than €400m annually. LVMH will be hoping Baptiste’s track record for commercial success will make a difference.
In a press release marking Baptista’s appointment, Kenzo’s CEO, Sylvie Colin, said: “His innovative and modern creative vision and well-rounded artistic approach will enable Kenzo to reach its full potential while respecting its unique heritage.”
Baptista said: “Kenzo is all about contagious freedom and movement. Everything Mr Takada did was suffused with joy, elegance and a youthful and bold sense of humour. Kenzo’s constant celebration of nature and cultural diversity has always been and remains at the heart of the brand. These two subjects have never felt more relevant and compelling than they do today.”
He takes up the position on Monday.