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Meeting Kenzo’s Antonio Marras

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Running in heels inside the Dubai Mall is very challenging especially when you’re rushing to meet the Antonio Marras. It is not an entertaining thought, we’d tell you, but is actually a serious reminder to being always way ahead of time.

Antonio Marras, the man behind the artistic direction of the global fashion brand Kenzo, has provided us thirty minutes of his forty eight hours in Dubai. Given his stature, hectic schedule and jetlag, we understand that it was quite generous.

As we approach the chic black-and-white retail space, and see the man who’s looking so regal in a casual ensemble, we know then that it is a no-nonsense meeting.

And when he leads us towards the lovely chairs inside the store (the house’s largest outside the historic Place des Victoires shop in Paris and the flagship in the Middle East), we immediately admire how he seems to be the decisive type who does use every second of his time productively – he knows exactly what he wants and how he wants to do it.

Without wasting further, we go ahead with the interview while the Communications Director of Kenzo, Adriano Rossi, joins us to translate. Read on as we recount our brief but engaging encounter with Creative Director Antonio Marras inside boutique that looks very inviting with its Parisian-style moulded interiors that could have possibly taken inspirations from art nouveau movement of the early 20th century.

How has the brand evolved from the time Kenzo Takada established it to the moment that you took on responsibility as its Creative Director?

First, I would like to go back when it all started. I would like to highlight what Kenzo Takada did in the ’70s and the ’80s. In my eyes, he did a revolution in fashion. He is the very first Japanese designer who came to Paris to create Western couture – Western fashion – with mix of his own culture. In a way he was the first, and he opened the doors for other designers to do the same.

Kenzo Takada is very particular designer. He was into colours, flowers and fantasy which were completely new for fashion at that time. Back then, fashion was all about serious, elegant, classic types. Now, we want to portray a more universal approach to the brand but still with the inspiration of Kenzo Takada’s philosophy towards fashion.

How do you infuse your own artistry into the brand given that Kenzo Takada has taken his east-meets-west affinity to the fashion house? What are there similarities or differences in your creative take on Kenzo?

When I joined Kenzo seven years ago, Kenzo Takada has already left the company for about ten years. And so, I was there to fill the gap, creative gap, as there wasn’t a brand for too long. When I came into the House priority was to give vitality to the brand, bring back the values of the brand that made the brands successful when it was created.

About your role as Creative Director, we’ve learned that you are to create the always-stunning Kenzo lines one family wherein there is a united style of fashion for men, women and children along with accessories and interiors products. With this in mind, how do you express your fashion values to the women in the Middle East?

I think the key element in the Kenzo designs is the personality. I don’t think there is just one Kenzo woman. I believe that what I design for Kenzo will appeal and look good to women here in the Middle East as well as to the women in Milan, Paris, everywhere. I believe in the globalization of style that is why I think that when I create a collection for Kenzo, it will be right for women here and everywhere.

But it seems to us that fashion designers have faces or have chosen ambassadors for their brands. Has there been a particular woman that actually inspired you in a particular collection?

I don’t think that one collection should be designed for one person or one brand to a certain type of woman. I think that women are more complex; they have different aspects and faces.

I always try to design for women with different personalities. For example, for this collection I thought of Marisa Berenson (American model-turned-actress) who is a very dear friend of mine. But at the same time, for this collection, I can also think of a young lady like Milla Jovovich with twisted elegant; she knows how to mix and style herself, she does not conform to what everybody else does, and she does things on her own way.

For me beauty is not about perfection, it is more about the personality and attitude. For example in my men’s show, I also put women in the show dressed like men’s clothes that were kind of iconic for me. The female models I use for my fashion shows are beautiful, yes, but they are strong women, and I think this is what matters more in my work. And since I took over Kenzo menswear in 2008, I am trying to make Kenzo unique as one universe, compact and telling one story for both men and women.

As you’ve mentioned your womenswear, we understand that you’re showcasing the Middle East launch of your Autumn/Winter 2010-2011. Can you walk us through the idea behind this collection, and the important pieces in it?

The starting point of this collection entails two elements that seem to be very opposite. I wanted to mix the closet of bourgeois ladies – conservative, very ’70s style – say Marisa Berenson, a very elegant beauty, and mix it with the wild side of Maria Schneider of Paris. I imagine a woman who wears ultra-tailored and masculine yet very chic pieces, but at the same time under the coat they also wear huge maxi dresses filled with flowers and prints. Our collection entails elaborate tailoring and classical with lots of gypsy white; it combines two different worlds from two different closets of a woman.

Finally, wow do you describe your creative process? Have you come across any difficulty in finding inspirations for your collections?

Personally my problem is finding the idea from too many ideas. I have so many ideas around me everytime, and it is difficult to analyze these ideas to create a coherent story. I am very much inspired by many things – not just fashion- it could be art, exhibitions, dance, books, movies, cinemas. For me, I just get inputs from everywhere. I’ve got all these in my head when I’m trying to create a collection, and my job is to try to make all these different ideas in one clear story.

About Antonio Marras

From haute couture to prêt-à-porter, Antonio Marras has created a marked for his name in the fashion world. His experience of haute couture (four collections created between 1996 and 1998) has enabled him to give free rein to his sensual love of materials and ornaments and given rise to a series of sumptuous and stately models inspired by the popular traditions of his native land, Sardinia. His arrival as artistic director of the Womenswear in 2003 has permitted the renaissance of Kenzo and its further development.

His successful undertaking has led to his appointment as Creative Director of the whole Kenzo universe in 2008. Marras’affinity with Kenzo Takada lies in the blend of intellectual nomadism and sense of his origins. Very much in the spirit of Kenzo, Antonio Marras portrays a world both rich and poetic, mixing influences and forging links between the world of fashion and other forms of artistic expression.

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