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My Morning with the Fall/Winter 2015 Kenzo Clan

Fashion Week Journal for Sunday, March 8

If you’re the sort who’s in it for the details, runway shows can actually be a little bit frustrating. Even from Kim and Kanye’s seats, you just can’t always see the tiny embellishments and the careful tucks and seams—let alone the accessories or the nails. At Kenzo, details have a way of being not just downright museum-quality but also streetwise and cool, so I was pretty psyched to learn that I had backstage access before their show. All the better to see the nuances at close range, and to see how the story of those details comes together.

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Turns out there really is a nuanced tale behind Kenzo’s fall 2015 collection. Keep reading to get the scoop, and to find out how eventually the entire Paris Event Center got to see it up close and personally.

The sun rose in Paris at 7:15 on Sunday morning; about 15 minutes after that I walked into a basketball-court-sized room that was already filled with gorgeous models, hipster hair-and-makeup crews and a thick cloud of hairspray. God only knows what force oversees those zones of controlled chaos; I just know whenever I’m in the midst of hair, makeup, wardrobe and rehearsal, I spend a lot of time feeling very grateful for my fly-on-the-wall status. There’s no ticking clock, no hurried timeframe, for the fly on the wall.

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In my experience, models and hair-and-makeup people profess not to be morning people, but in reality seem to be very much morning people. Things were jumping.

Overheard:

“Hedvig, will you get dressed already?!” (American accent.)

“My mother says the boys in France are not gentlemen.” (Eastern European accent.)

“Yes but I’m not a 41, I’m a 39.” (French accent.)

“Oui Oui Oui, the black with the burgundy!” (French accent.)

Some girls, like the gorgeous and essentially perfect Sam Rollinson, below, were having their deceptively simple ponytails wrapped, and elsewhere, shadow that seemed to be somewhere between war paint and Wite-Out was being applied, re-applied, tweaked and re-tweaked.

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What’s great about this kind of inside access is that not only do you get the opportunity to see the important elements and the excitement unfolding, you really get perspective on the styling direction as well.

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Somewhere between the stack of faux ponytails and the craft services (that’s industry lingo for snack table), I spotted co-designer Humberto Leon looking ultra cool and laid-back inside it all. Given his calm, I felt comfortable grabbing two minutes of his time—and I ended up getting a whole universe of perspective.

“The collection is about these women who live in the forest. They’re warrior types who represent strength and power,” he told me. “It’s about this story of women all living together.”

Like, a true story? Something rooted in history and anthropology, or something of pure fiction?

“In the brand and in the heritage there have always been these tribes and these warrior groups, but we wanted to make it even more of a thing. Really explore that. These women are very non-city. They’re off the grid. They live in a different world than the one you and I live in.”

I’ll say. But it sure is nice to visit.

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I also learned that the nail team from M•A•C was given almost free reign; they, in turn, gave the girls a sort of savage secretary set of white, green, black, and wine nails to accessorize with.

Let’s just say that if these warriors wandered into your metropolitan area, their unified wardrobe, hair, makeup and lacquer look would probably intimidate even the most sophisticated girl on the block.

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Remember back in New York when we talked with photographer Shawn Brackbill about shooting backstage, and getting what are called the “first look” moments? By about 9:30 I was picturing him here as his Parisian counterpart began snapping images of the fully dressed, fully readied Kenzo fall ’15 clan before dress rehearsal began.

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The exercise of first looks goes on for longer than you might think and I suspect that a love for the camera—from both sides—is a big part of what makes many runway shows so late.

But sooner or later someone corrals the group together for a few walk-throughs. With music. And feeling. Watching the girls enter onto the stage and then come back through, I was reminded that modeling is really physical work. I mean, you sort of have to be a warrior to stomp tall in those shoes.

Anyway, sooner or later after that, it all actually began.

Leon’s presentation with partner Carol Lim was extra strong this season in that it had a real sense of theater: super-modern, high-tech, high-Broadway theater.

Though Leon relayed his story of the tribe and even the program notes stated that the collection was about women who were friends with the trees and forest, the runway was set amid giant, moving pillars that swept across the room as if in a video game.

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A video game, that is, set to two songs composed and performed specifically for the show by Saint Etienne.

Somehow the mylar-covered otherworld made perfect sense as tomato-colored pleats and punchy, feather-edged jogging suits moved through it. The satiny ponchos and high-collared shearling coats made winter look inviting again, and killer bucket bags and backpacks made a convincing case for leaving one’s encampment.

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But even with all those theatrics, the show wasn’t over when it was over.

After the finale, Leon and Lim had the girls stationed along the pillars like guardswomen, and the crowds came down like anthropologists to get an eye on what might have been the imagined artisan crafts of the Kenzo clan.

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Overheard:

“I just want all of it—now!” (American accent.)

 

Shop: current season Kenzo

—Laura Cassidy