In conversation with legendary Japanese designer Kenzo Takada

Reecha Kulkarni / April 6, 2018

The Mah Jong sofa from Roche Bobois is something of a couture diva. The icon has been dressed in couture by Jean Paul Gaultier and Missoni Home, and it will now wear Kenzo Takada. The founder of fashion brand Kenzo reinterpreted kimonos from his home country of Japan for the modular seating arrangement.

Borrowing from the range of prints and emotions of the costumes in traditional Japanese Noh Theatre, the designer upholstered the sofa in shades of the day: the morning, midday and the evening.
Translated to Japanese: asa, hiru and yoru.
Translated to decor: pop prints and fluorescent colours for the morning, warm reds and florals for the midday and gorgeous hues of indigo for the evening.

He gives us a glimpse into how he constructed his own rich heritage into a colourful collection of fabrics and ceramics.

1  How did this collaboration come about and why did you choose to do it?

About three years ago, we started to think about the idea of working together on a line with Roche Bobois. Nicolas Roche and his team met us through mutual friends and we very quickly decided to collaborate. Roche Bobois is a well-known brand and I’ve owned some of their pieces in the past. The Mah Jong is an iconic piece, so when we met, I was really keen to work on this ultra-modular, multi-cultural sofa, to give it a new identity.

2  What could we find on your mood board? 

I get inspiration from many sources: travels, experiences, conversations and objects collected along the way. The world is so vast, rich in cultures and so much history to get inspired by. I work with my team to establish very visual mood boards. For this particular work, I wanted to bring forward Japanese culture and craftsmanship. So, all the visuals were primarily based on a journey to my native country of Japan. I was strongly inspired by the graphics and materials of the Noh Theatre kimonos.

3  Which of the three variations (Asa, Hiru, Yoru) could we find in your own home? How would you style it?

I don’t have a favourite but I could certainly see some pieces from this collection in my next home, or if I rework my space. I really like the end result of the Mah Jong. The three different colour tones allow one to place this important (piece of) furniture in a matching environment. It is important to find a harmony at home. I emphasise on the homogeneity and keep in mind that each one of us has a unique environment identity. So, when I work on what a sofa should look like, I try to project myself in different homes.

4  Did you visit Noh theatres when you were younger? Tell us about your experience. 

Absolutely – on several occasions. The Noh Theatre is a ceremonial, rhythmic play acted by men wearing masks. In the old days, the samurai were actors and the Kimono was very important.  The Noh has a very mysterious aspect with supernatural spirit to it, which I am fond of.

5  What is one unique aspect about the kimono that made you choose it as your inspiration?

The combination of fabrics used to make the Kimonos is very unique; they are usually made of Jacquard, silks, cotton, and other textiles. The graphics are also key to create a certain balance.  I love to work with jacquard, it is a luxurious material and gives a certain depth to the design you apply. It also allows you to go further into what couldn’t be possible with other materials or prints.


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