Meet Kenzo Founder Kenzo Takada

Japanese Fashion designer Kenzo Takada commanded the world’s attention in 1970 when he started his namesake brand’s Paris boutique on Galerie Vivienne. Decked out with eclectic patterns that eschewed popular trends, Takada’s kimono-inspired garments and designer women’s sneakers and accessories captured the essence of a multicultural world–and cemented his legacy in the fashion world for decades to come.


Fast forward to 2017, Takada, who resigned from Kenzo in 1999, has kept busy by pursuing fine arts and contemporary interior design. His most recent design endeavour could be his most impactful yet. Roche Bobois commissioned Takada to redesign the brand’s iconic Mah Jong couch, originally made by Hans Hopfer in 1971. Using jacquard cloth from his Nogaku Collection, Takada re-imagined the piece in three distinctive colour schemes that signify morning (asa), day (hiru), and night (yoru). Additionally, he made a line of display furniture featuring modern-leaning cushions, clay earthenware, side tables, and hand-tufted rugs. The end result is a cohesive group of interior furnishings which blends perfectly Takada’s experience in detail and pattern with Roche Bobois’s distinctive silhouettes.


We sat down with the designer, who divulged details about his upbringing in Japan, his daring journey into fashion, and his current endeavours in the design sphere.


Where did you grow up and how did it affect your work?

Kenzo Takada: I grew up in Himeji, Japan, in a traditional home where my parents hosted in-house tea ceremonies. My sisters were interested in fashion and would always bring home magazines filled with fashionable clothes, stylish ankle boots and makeup and hair trends, where I found the joy of colour. I was about 14 years old. I then chose to study fashion and proceed to Paris where I have lived for more than 50 years.


Before I established Kenzo in 1970, I had to create an identity. I had been working for a few companies already, but no longer wanted to follow fashion trends. I travelled back to Japan and purchased some traditional textiles which I mixed together in a French fashion that the market hadn’t yet seen. Not only did this cause a stir in Vogue at the moment, but the experience helped inform much of my future work.


How did the collaboration with Roche Bobois come about?

Kenzo Takada: We first spoke about Mah Jong two decades back. I revealed to Roche Bobois three colour ideas and they were immediately on board. The whole concept for Mah Jong is inspired by vintage kimonos and traditional patterns from Japanese Noh theatre. It felt very natural. The mixing of patterns and colour is quite close to the way I work in fashion. The most important thing is to be compatible.

Tell us about the collaborative procedure.

Kenzo Takada: Six Months after we began, I visited Roche Bobois’s factory in Italy to see how it turned out for myself. It was overwhelming to choose the direction for the style and pattern choices. By viewing the cutting and stitching of cloth, my thoughts began to become clearer. The whole project only came together six months ago. There has been a whole lot of back and forth to perfect the various patterns.


After producing the couch, we decided to branch out and design accessories–loose cushions, ceramics, and rugs–which draw the collection together. The original plan was just to have one colour. I introduced a manly colour and a couple of feminine colours, but we could not decide on just one, so we made all three. They were quite open to using three unique colours.


Your Designs merge adventures in both France and Japan. How can those translate to Mah Jong?

Kenzo Takada: I closely follow French style and trends, but the one thing I understand better is Japanese heritage. This is evident in Mah Jong.


After you retired from Kenzo in 1999, what drove your foray into art and design?

Kenzo Takada: Both On the professional and personal side, I have always been drawn to both museum art and design. Kenzo even branched out into lines of home accessories and products. I noticed that I have been buying a growing number of design objects and home products, also.


What is the most exciting intersection of style and style?


Kenzo Takada: They share the same inspiration and objective; the realized dream.


What’s your hottest interiors pet peeve?

Kenzo Takada: I love harmony. Interiors should be joyful and tasteful. Anything too contemporary risks missing the mark, I’d love to see more of a mixture of contemporary and classic in a way that is harmonious.

Pencil, pen, or pc?


Kenzo Takada: Pencil. When I get motivated, I really like to sketch. Working by hand brings more depth and awareness to the product that you’re working on.


A Secret source you are willing to share?

Kenzo Takada: Revisiting ancient Japanese materials and traditional craftsmanship.


And there you have it, our meeting with the mind behind the Kenzo brand.

An Artist in Home on the Fault Lines – Part 2

Analia Saban started mining and subverting the materials of art history while she was in grad school at the University of California at Los Angeles. Born in Buenos Aires to a professional family – her father was an accountant and her mother, a librarian – she says her childhood was disrupted by the bombing of the Israeli Embassy there in 1992, just around the corner from the school. She was 11.

She said it marked her for certain. In her words, it was a real explosion, with the ground vibration and windows shattering and then chunks of the classroom ceiling falling. She didn’t get hurt but a great deal of her friends had blood on them. She said she believes a whole lot of her job has to do with destruction but also repairing things, or attempting to weave things – or keep things – together.

1 odd effect: After her college reopened, it built a first-rate video laboratory. She explained that the Japanese Embassy felt so bad for our faculty that they donated this unbelievable video equipment from Sony. As the laboratory’s sole apprentice, she learned basic editing and composition skills that she has used since. Some of her friends took their creative sphere from these technical skills into managed software testing and ICT risk mitigation.

Analia went on to study film and video art at Loyola University in New Orleans for her bachelor’s degree. Then, for her master’s, she enrolled at the house for art outcasts called the “new genres” program at U.C.L.A., studying with the ever-provocative Paul McCarthy and Mr. Baldessari, who remains a friend, mentor and supply of witty titles. (He also came up with “Threadbare” for her new trompe l’oeil series at Sprüth Magers, which looks uncannily like canvas)

Yet she said she felt directionless for most of the period. “I was lost for a moment. It was 2005 and it was a really substantial point in the industry.” She was surprised by the number of vendors that were coming to their studios looking at paintings and incorporating it into everything from hanging them in fitness club lounge areas to replicating them into the designs of business IT support solutions – it appeared painting was all that mattered.”

She asked herself: How can a painting be valued up to $90 million? What’s a painting anyway?

She gathered over 100 paintings from unusual sources, thrift shops, fellow students’ work, Chinese painting factories that created Picasso and Van Gogh knockoffs. Then she proceeded to unravel each canvas to its pigment-dotted threads, then rolling them together into one, thigh-high ball.

There was something quite liberating to her about it, to realize that painting doesn’t need to be this precious item hanging on the wall – that it is only a piece of fabric, material from everyday life, like the thread that people wear.

Shown in her graduating exhibition, “The Painting Ball (48 Abstract, 42 Landscapes, 23 Still Lifes, 11 Portraits, 2 Spiritual, 1 Nude),” helped secure her first gallery show in Los Angeles and then one with Sprüth Magers in Munich in 2007.

And her interest in pigments resulted in a residency at the Getty Research Institute in 2015 to 2016, once the scholarly theme was artwork and materials. Her idea was: Can I use conservation tools to create art rather than conserve art? She ended up experimenting with ancient pigment sources like azurite minerals and cochineal insects, sources of rich blues and red hues. In 1 function from the Berlin show, she slyly mixes bugs into encaustic paint together with the red powder made from grinding them inviting viewers to see her procedure.

In 2014, the artist started working on her “Draped Marble” string, inventing a way to bend a marble slab over a sawhorse as you may hang a beach towel over a chair. She used a sledgehammer to make a crease from the marble slab, lined with fiberglass mesh under to keep the fragments from falling apart. (The Folded Concrete sculptures took much more force, requiring a small-scale bubble or slab crane for hire to bend the concrete.)

Claudia Schmuckli, who arranged the Blaffer exhibition, calls her selection of marble, contrasted with the glue laminated engineered timber exterior of her studio, “extremely loaded,” referring to its development from the temples of ancient Greece to ubiquitous kitchen countertops now. She doesn’t believe her work is intended as an overt critique of consumer society or the role of women within it, but that it definitely reflects an awareness of how art was absorbed by the ornamental, domestic arena.

Ms. Saban said her interior decorating work had been inspired by the masterly drapery carved in marble by classical and Renaissance sculptors, citing the folds of the Virgin Mary’s robe billowing in her toes in Michelangelo’s Pietà at Rome. The artist was struck by the extraordinary hard work and skill evident in changing stone to what looks like fabric – turning the tough into the elastic, the tough to the polished, the powerful to the delicate.

“I love the way these artists were insisting on the impossible,” she said.

An Artist in Home on the Fault Lines – Part 1

Analia Saban’s studio, which she took over from John Baldessari eight decades back, is still packed with remnants in the early, heady, low-rent days when conceptual art began in Los Angeles. Boxes of correspondence and records left behind by Mr. Baldessari, a pioneer of the motion, are pointed out.

On the dingy bathroom wall is a gift that he received from another central figure, Lawrence Weiner: a text piece which states in red, “the trace of an action past, i.e. a wet place.” In the rear remains a little darkroom constructed in 1971 by an earlier inhabitant, William Wegman, who also left a basketball hoop. “These guys never move out, they just leave,” Ms. Saban offered, smiling.

Then there’s the jagged crack running through the concrete floor, brought on by an earthquake. The crack shows up in early lifestyle photography and videos from Baldessari and Wegman. Now the crack has made its way to Ms. Saban’s work also. At the heart of “Folds and Faults,” her new show at Sprüth Magers gallery in Los Angeles, is a string of draped and folded concrete bits which involved bending a 1,000-pound slab of concrete in half with the help of small-scale drake low loaders and frannas and other powerful machinery without completely breaking it in two.

Originally she was thinking about the material, the way to make something which doesn’t bend to appear as flexible as paper. Ms. Saban, 36, explained her thought process in her lilting Argentine accent. Looking back though the architecture photography, she saw a link to earthquakes and the way that they cause city streets to buckle and a floor like that to crack. And the earthquake imagery isn’t the only thing connecting Ms. Saban’s function to the studio’s past tenants. She’s considered as one of the heirs for their droll conceptual art tradition, even as she borders into sculptural territory with her concrete pieces, their marble bows and other tactile thought-experiments.

Michael Govan, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, explained that her work is about this tipping point between the conceptual and the substance. Even when the work has this stringent procedural quality that translates into language, your initial response is only to wonder. How did she bend that stone? We’re all watching to see what she comes up with next.

Lacma Already owns 17 of her functions. She is also represented at the Hammer Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the most visible of personal collections: those of Cindy and Howard Rachofsky of Dallas, Don and Mera Rubell of Miami, and Maurice and Paul Marciano in Los Angeles, under the very same architectural and structural timber beams and frames, whose inaugural show features three of the pieces. The critic Christopher Knight of The Los Angeles Times called her a “standout” of this series for creating “inventive use of standard materials.”

Ms. Saban received her first museum survey in September in the Blaffer Art Museum in Houston. A fitted bedsheet loosely draped over a large canvas, it turns out, was really made from acrylic paint. A complete facsimile of a white cotton towel? Just paper. Testing the limits and uses of art history media – paint, canvas, ink, marble, as much as her contemporaries Walead Beshty and Wade Guyton expose the internal workings of new technologies.

In another series called “Markings,” she manages to scrape a piece of emulsion off the surface of a picture, placing it on a canvas nearby like a brush stroke. This work will appear in a Sprüth Magers series opening Friday, July 7, in Berlin, a very nerdy series based on her own research into pigments. Ms. Saban, who has the soft-spoken, self-effacing way of a scientist happens to be married to a physician.

There is something surgical about what she does. There is a good deal of cutting and opening and reconfiguring in her work. She said her interest is taking her into taking something apart to see if it can have another life, like a supporting analyst of an IT consultant company. She had been sitting at a table in her studio facing a big wooden loom, used for weaving together linen thread and strings made solely of dried acrylic paint. “Instead of painting on the canvas, I’m painting through the canvas,” she clarified.

With her new “Pleated Ink” String, hanging near the loom, she tweaks the centuries-old drawing process. Rather than using ink on paper, she used paper on ink: demanding Laser-sculpted paper (thanks to the advancement of technology and agile testing managed services) with big cutout areas on a bed of newspaper-type ink so thick that it took six months to dry. One shows a potted plant; another an Angled stairway with rails embedded in the ink.

Read more about Analia Saban’s work in ‘Part 2’…

Best Places To Buy Art

Being an art lover and collector can be expensive, so it is good to know the best places to buy art. There are many places to buy art such as Auctions, art fairs, galleries and exhibitions, online galleries, artists websites, online auction sites like eBay. Even restaurants sell paintings by local artists.

But which of these options is the best place to find the most interesting pieces at the best price? Below, art buyer Wendy Hermann give her two favorite places to buy art from:

For me, the two places I mostly like to buy art from are eBay and private collectors.

Buying Art From eBay

The best thing about buying art on eBay is that you can usually you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg for it. For an art investor, this is good. It means that if he makes a mistake, at least he hasn’t risked a huge sum of money. eBay has become the place to go for good deals so except in rare cases, you get a good deal for your money.

In addition, many artists like to sell on eBay mostly because its one of the rare places where they can have their work seen by potentially hundreds of people. Artists are mostly desperate to have their work seen and because of this, art collectors can often steal works or art from unknown artists before they are discovered.

The negative side of buying art on eBay is the whole eBay art fraud thing.

Some sellers, and no one knows exactly how many, will outright lie about the art they are selling. Theyll state that a piece of art is an original even though it isn’t. Theyll place fake signatures on paintings to make them seem more valuable to the bidders and drive up the bid price. Theyll forge paintings or prints and sell them for whatever they can get with the secure knowledge that they won’t have to pay a heavy price if they get caught.

If you’re a novice art buyer, and you’re thinking of buying an expensive piece of art, eBay is probably not for you.

Private Art Galleries

Private galleries are a great place to buy art. But you don’t want to buy from just anyone. You want to find out who the best dealers are in your particular art niche. For example, if you are interested in Native American art, you want to find the best dealers in that market. Once you find who they are, you want to begin to develop relationships with them. Doing this will not only help you when you get to the price haggling point, it will also ensure that you’re first on their call list when they get a new piece of art in.

In addition, a good dealer can help guide you in your art acquisitions by giving you their expert and honest opinions on which pieces are most likely to appreciate in value and which artists are likely to become more popular in years to come.

Wherever you decide to buy, just make sure that you love the piece you buy regardless of whether it will increase in value or not. That way you will never be disappointed in your purchase.