What does it take for a bag to become not just a bag, but an ‘it bag’? How does an accessory transcend from sought after to absolute must have? Is it the colour, the brand, the shape? Whatever it is it’s not something that a designer can ever really anticipate or guarantee success. But if there was a brand who had it in them to create this season’s new ‘it bag’ we’d put our money on Kenzo’s Kalifornia.
The Parisian label, run by Creative Directors Carol Lim and Humberto Leon have brought the brand from almost-obscurity to one of the most coveted labels in the industry in a matter of years.
From the brand’s inception back in 1970 by Japanese founder Kenzo Takada, it had always been directional. Takada would piece together garments using scraps of material that he would buy from Parisian flea markets when short of cash which swiftly lent the brand its iconic aesthetic. But in 1999 Takada retired from his eponymous label and the brand drifted into obscurity until the appointment of Lim and Leon two years ago. Known in fashion circles as the uber-cool duo behind the merchandising of Opening Ceremony, their appointment was met to mixed reviews as they were known primarily as retailers rather than designers.
But it seems the move has paid off for the brand as despite their relatively short tenure at Kenzo Leon and Lim have turned it around in spectacular form, creating iconic prints and eye catching logos that have dominated street style photos from across the globe.
The launch of their new ‘Kalifornia’ bag was the biggest launch from the brand to date and fittingly took place in an indoor skate park in downtown L.A. They threw a party that combined Kenzo’s Parisian heritage with California’s cool vibe; serving guests Parisian cuisine using make shift dinner tables out of skate ramps. The party was hosted by a bevy of super cool California natives including Rashida Jones, Carrie Brownstein and China Chow who all rocked up in an array of stunning new season Kenzo clothes.
So what’s with the pre-occupation with the Sunshine State? Lim explained ‘Humberto and I grew up in L.A, so we really wanted to salute that fact, we wanted to pay tribute to our youth and also wanted to find a place where people still skated today. Of Course since we’re launching a bag, we wanted girl skaters. It’s all about celebrating women and celebrating our roots.’
And these girl skaters weren’t just any girls but four of the best female skaters in the world including Nora Vasconcellos, Eliana Sosco, Lizzie Armanto and Vanessa Torres clad in items from the most recent Kenzo collection.
The special thing about the Kalifornia is that it has been, quite literally, road tested by Leon and Lim who took two prototypes with them on a two week trip from San Francisco to Palm Springs. They used the trip as a means of testing the bags functionality so that it would be as practical as it is sleekly stylish. It’s the perfect size to cart round a iPad and has perfect phone size compartments at the front and even change pockets at the back (specifically for your parking metre coins). The bag is even specifically tapered towards the top so that it won’t topple and spill all of your worldly possessions when thrown on the floor.
It’s this attention to detail that really will really set the Kalifornia apart and Leon and Lim really understand the importance of a strong accessories collection for a brand. Sarah Davis, of the luxury handbag reseller Fashionophile, states; ‘there’s something about a bag that really spreads the word for a brand’ she explains ‘Celine for example was a sleepy fashion label before it’s accessories helped lift consumer interest in all of its products.’ Davis pointed out that at some points Celine’s shopper bags would often re-sell at higher prices than if bought as new.
We can imagine that the Kalifornia is going to be pretty quick to sell out too with an already impressive celebrity fan base including the likes of Jessica Alba. The design is instantly recognizable as Kenzo; the soft leather is inspired by leather biker jackets and come in appropriately named ‘biker black’ and ‘racer red’.
And the name? Leon explains ‘because it’s Kenzo, (the bag) has its own Parisian aesthetic, but it also has an ease to it (that’s very Californian)’. It’s the perfect combination of Parisian street chic meets laid back West Coast cool.
The Kalifornia is officially out now and can be bought online and in a number of high end stores including Opening Ceremony in West Hollywood and retails at around £660, we can’t wait to get our hands on one!
Which colour would you choose? What do you think of the Kalifornia’s design? What do you think it takes to make an ‘it bag’?
Written by Lucinda Bounsall, fashion writer at Farfetch.
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