Thu, 13 Oct 1994

Kenzo '94: Style without surprises

By Jason Tedjasukmana

JAKARTA (JP): "Very wearable" was what the woman next to me said as the last model shimmied off the runway.

This aptly describes Kenzo's Autumn and Winter 1994 collection, launched this week in Jakarta.

Sensible styling with emphasis on practicality and versatility characterizes most of the four Kenzo lines, leaving haute couture and impossible fashion in the wake of the waif.

The use of separates dominates the majority of the women's wear, as Kenzo cleverly balances utilitarian styling with vibrant design. The two combine to form part of Kenzo Paris' active, daytime wear that draws inspiration from Indian and Nepalese flora and fauna motifs. Though the colors are loud and the prints striking, there is an pleasant compatibility inherent in each of the vests, short A-frame dresses and straight-legged trousers.

Ironically, the look is more interesting when the pieces are not coordinated with their matching mates. Together with solid and more neutral-colored garments, the vibrant shades of burnt orange, wine, mustard and azure in the mini-dresses, for example, are set off in sartorial splendor when worn over solid black, taupe or cream-colored trousers.

Kenzo's strength this season lies in his use of materials, most notably in the evening collection of Kenzo Paris. The lush textures of this season's fabrics are highlighted in the sheer, satin dresses, skirts and gowns that make up much of the line. With the exception of a few skin-tight, sleeveless tops, the evening wear overall is quite conservative, allowing wearers to put a classy foot forward when stepping out at night.

One of the most versatile evening pieces is Kenzo's "Ball" skirt in black flocked silk jacquard with a tulip motif: Elegant when paired with his black chenille sweater, provocative with a sleeveless, princess-line top and "flapper" when worn together with a mock turtle-neck and elbow-high lace gloves.

To this generally more sophisticated component of the collection, Kenzo has also added a few playful touches in the form of fluffy, black feather boas and long, floppy, harlequinesque collars. What his intentions were, however, with his line of women's tuxedo coats with tails is not so clear as the design is cute but not terribly original or flattering.

Tame Thing

Options for the working woman are limited mostly to high- waisted trousers and semi-frumpy blouses, which can be spruced up and accentuated with the same embroidered collars and cuffs seen in the evening wear. Kenzo's office ensembles don't break any nine to five fashion barriers but are probably a safer bet in today's corporate climate of grabbing hands and libidinous leers.

For that rebel without a mall there is Kenzo Jungle, a world turned upside-down by fuchsias, pinks, purples and blues. Velvet and leather trousers, animal motif T-shirts and suedecloth shirts lend a slightly unorthodox edge and will most likely appeal to that sassy young lady in need of a statement.

The roar of Kenzo Jungle quiets down a bit in selections from this year's Kenzo Jeans, especially when a 1960s theme is introduced. In an attempt to get retro with phosphorescent colors and quasi-tie-dyed patterns, the cotton elastane zebra-striped pants and jackets are closer akin to shag carpeting than hippie- fashion.

This attempt to inject excitement into an everyday wardrobe is appreciated though as most of the line is fairly standard denimwear. Calf-length, front-buttoning jean dresses stand out among the choices for women, while vests, jackets, shorts and an occasional Western-styled jean shirt comprise the men's line.

Homme Alone

Kenzo's fashion for men doesn't take any unnecessary risks and leaves today's man in something of a quagmire of conventional clothing. Little of the energy that went into creating something eye-catching for women has trickled into Kenzo Homme, a bland diet of glen plaid blazers, khaki trousers and an array of uninspired button down shirts.

Single-breasted suits, a staple of Kenzo Homme, are standard fare, cut cleanly in their design. The wool/cotton blends, in solid colors of cream and olive, flow most elegantly in the two and three-button single-breasts. The fabrics don't hang quite as well in the double-breasted suits, which come off a bit boxy and staid.

Though the leaf motifs are in keeping with the spirit of autumn, the shirts exhibited at their show looked stiff and the trousers meant to accompany them come in rather drab shades of wine, olive and brown. The menswear in this season's fashion show is in stark contrast to what is found in the Kenzo Travel Log, which offers rich, rustic-looking wool scarves and cardigans, herringbone jackets and cotton/alpaca trousers in black, charcoal and navy. This discrepancy may in fact be due to Jakarta's tropical weather, in which case, maybe the gents will have more to look forward to in Spring.