Kenzo Takada, fashion designer and founder of the brand Kenzo, has died in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, from COVID-19. He was 81.

Takada’s death was confirmed Sunday morning by a post on the Kenzo brand Facebook page.

“For half a century, Mr. Takada has been an emblematic personality in the fashion industry – always infusing creativity and color into the world,” the post reads. “Today, his optimism, zest for life and generosity continue to be pillars of our Maison. He will be greatly missed and always remembered.”

Kenzo’s creative director, Felipe Oliveira Baptista, also remembered Takada with an Instagram tribute, writing “His amazing energy, kindness, talent and smile were contagious. His kindred spirit will live forever.”

Born in Himeji, Japan, on Feb. 27, 1939, Takada discovered his love for fashion at an early age and enrolled at Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo in 1958. He eventually moved to Paris in 1965 to pursue a career as a fashion designer. Though he initially struggled, Takada hit his stride in 1970 and opened up his first storefront in the Galerie Vivienne. With only $200 worth of fabric to work with, Takada’s first collection was an eclectic mix of bold colors and patterns, which formed his signature style and inspired the store’s name, “Jungle Jap.”

From there, Takada took off. One of his designs was featured on the June 1970 cover of Elle magazine and he presented his collections in both New York City and Tokyo the following year. In 1976, Takada opened his flagship store for Kenzo in Paris’ iconic Place des Victoires and continued to see success throughout the late ’70s and early ’80s, launching his first men’s collection in 1983 and signing a distribution deal with The Limited in 1984.

Takada also ventured into the world of perfume, beginning his women’s perfume line in 1988 with “Kenzo de Kenzo” and releasing men’s perfume, “Kenzo pour Homme” in 1991. In 1993, Kenzo was acquired by the luxury brand LVMH, and Takada announced his retirement from fashion in 1999. Later in his life, he continued to pursue art, working as a decoration designer.

In June 2016, Takada was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Fashion Editors’ Club of Japan in 2017.

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