Fashion designer Kenzo Takada dies

Kenzo Takada, the Franco-Japanese fashion designer famous for his jungle-infused designs and free-spirited aesthetic that channelled his home continent of Asia, has died aged 81.

His family said in a statement to French media that the fashion designer died from complications from Covid-19 in a hospital near Paris. A spokeswoman for the company that organises press for his brand confirmed that he had died, but did not give a cause of death.

Though Takada had been retired from his house since 1999 to pursue a career in art, he remains one of the most respected fixtures of high Paris fashion.

Since 1993, the brand Kenzo has been owned by French luxury goods company LVMH. The current designer, Felipe Oliveira Baptista, unveiled Kenzo's spring-summer 2020 collection to fashion editors on Wednesday.

Kenzo Takada
Kenzo Takada at work (AP)

"His amazing energy, kindness, talent and smile were contagious," said Baptista. "His kindred spirit will live forever."

Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive of LVMH, added: "Kenzo Takada has, from the 1970s, infused into fashion a tone of poetic lightness and sweet freedom which inspired many designers after him."

Takada was born on February 27 1939 in Himeji, Japan, to hoteliers, but after reading his sisters' fashion magazines his love of fashion began.

Studying at the Bunka College of Fashion in Tokyo, he had a brief stint working in Japan, before relocating to Paris in 1965, to work as a freelance designer.

In Paris, he took over a boutique in 1970.

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Japanese fashion designer Kenzo Takada holds a theatrical mask. He created the designer fashion label Kenzo and retired in 1999. (Photo by Pierre Vauthey/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images)
Portrait du couturier Kenzo Takada dans un jardin japonais, en France. (Photo by Christophe BOISVIEUX/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Fashion designer Kenzo Takada and a friend at a party at "Maxim' s" in 1986 . (Photo by Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images)
Kenzo Takada lors de son défilé, Prêt-à-Porter, collection Automne-Hiver 1984-85 à Paris, mars 1984, France. (Photo by Daniel SIMON/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Japanese designer Kenzo Takada lights the candles on a large flower-covered cake. He is showing his women's 1991 spring-summer ready-to-wear line in Paris. (Photo by Pierre Vauthey/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images)
Le retour du couturier Takada Kenzo en juin 1989 à Himeji, Japon. (Photo by Kurita KAKU/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Kenzo Takada et sa mariée lors de son défilé Prêt-à-Porter, collection Automne-Hiver 1995-96 à Paris en mars 1995, France. (Photo by Daniel SIMON/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Japanese fashion designer Kenzo Takada at mens fashion week in Cologne (North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany) on 2 August 1996 . | usage worldwide (Photo by Roland Scheidemann/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Kenzo Takada et ses mannequins à la fin de son défilé, Prêt-à-Porter, collection Printemps/été 1999 à Paris en octobre 1998, France (Photo by Alexis DUCLOS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Paris-based Japanese designer Kenzo Takada, aka "Kenzo", poses in the workshop on March 24, 2009 of his 1.362 m2 loft in Paris, during a press presentation of his collection of art works, furnitures which will be auctionned on June 16 and 17, 2009 at Drouot Montaigne auction house. AFP PHOTO FRANCOIS GUILLOT (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP via Getty Images)
PARIS - SEPTEMBER 30: (L-R) Hiroko Koshino and Kenzo Takada pose for Hiroko Koshino's Art and Fashion Exhibition Launch during Paris Fashion Week Ready To Wear Spring / Summer 2011 at Cite de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine on September 30, 2010 in Paris, France. (Photo by Pierre-Henri Pham/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 12: Kenzo Takada and Pierre Richard (R) attend 10 Royale by Kenzo Takada - High Jewellery First Edition Launch '10 Royale by Kenzo Takada' High Jewellery First Edition Launch at 10 Rue Royale on September 12, 2012 in Paris, France. (Photo by Michel Dufour/WireImage)
Japanese fashion designer Kenzo Takada poses next to his self-portrait painting during the Monaco Fight Aids Gala, on december 1, 2014 in Monaco, as part of the World AIDS Day. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHE ---RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE, MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION, TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION--- (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 17: Kenzo and Arnaud Lemaire attends the Kenzo Takada's 50 Years Of Life in Paris Celebration at Restaurant Le Pre Catelan on September 17, 2015 in Paris, France. (Photo by Dominique Charriau/WireImage)
PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 17: Kenzo attends the Kenzo Takada's 50 Years Of Life in Paris Celebration at Restaurant Le Pre Catelan on September 17, 2015 in Paris, France. (Photo by Dominique Charriau/WireImage)
Japanese fashion designer Junko Koshino (L) and Japanese-French fashion designer Kenzo Takada (R) pose next to a Kimono created by Koshino during the inauguration of the exhibition "Kimono - Au bonheur des dames" at the Guimet museum in Paris, on February 21, 2017. The exhibition will run from February 22 to May 22, 2017. / AFP / PATRICK KOVARIK / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION (Photo credit should read PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP via Getty Images)
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His first collection was made entirely out of cotton because he had little money. But the clothes spoke for themselves and a model of his was put on the cover of Elle magazine.

A short time after, pioneering shoulder forms, large armholes, dungarees, smock tent dresses, innovative shoulder shapes, and his store was featured in US Vogue. He showed collections in New York and Tokyo in 1971.

Yves Saint Laurent was an important inspiration, in his work, he has said. He shared Saint Laurent's penchant for theatrics. In 1978 and 1979 he showed in a circus tent, and it featured himself riding an elephant, and performers rode horses wearing see-through uniforms.

His love of travel and use of ethnic influences were strong features in his three decades at his fashion house.

His contribution to style was significant. He championed a youthful aesthetic and unstructured form. His signatures were of wider sleeves and arm holes, that harked to historic styles in his home continent of Asia.

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