Over the years, designer Kenneth Ize has come in contact with Karl Lagerfeld only indirectly: first as a student in Vienna where the latter’s vision and ideas were taught by professors and then as one of the 2019 finalists for the LVMH Prize for Young Designers.
This second occasion would have been the perfect moment to meet Lagerfeld, a judge at the competition. Sadly, he passed away a few months before the candidates were to assemble in Paris. “I really have to say that was definitely the one person that I was really, really looking forward to meeting during that time,” explained Ize.
While a meeting with the legendary Lagerfeld never happened, Ize would have another that would birth an experience close to what he had always wanted: at the LVMH Prize showroom, he met with French stylist and fashion entrepreneur Carine Roitfeld who had been named style adviser at the Karl Lagerfeld brand in April of the same year. It was she who approached the designer to work with the Maison as its first Black designer collaborator.
Ize accepted, and the result is a capsule collection that would be available on the Karl Lagerfeld website and other select stores from the 7th of July 2021.
Roitfeld explained that working with Kenneth was almost the same as working with Karl, even though she admits that “they’re not the same generation, so there’s a lot of difference coming from that.”
“Kenneth told me, let’s play with the clothes, do what you want. When you have the designer next to you it can be a bit difficult. But Karl was the same, he said, do what you like, surprise me. Mix the clothes. Kenneth is the same way. He wants to be surprised at what someone else is doing with his collection. They have the same attitude. They’re very open,” she said in an interview.
The collection features a range of genderless styles and accessories that marry the brand’s signature shades of black and white with Ize’s Nigerian background and the African culture. as well as striking pops of colour inspired by traditional aso oke cloth.
“When I was designing the collection I was definitely thinking about the man himself because he’s the one in the picture. But I knew that it was very important for me to express where I’m from because it was like introducing myself to him. And that was really what I tried to do: How can I incorporate my own background and my own story into this collection? Every single outfit was based on African imagery, Malick Sidibé imagery for example,” said Kenneth.
Pieces include tailoring, knitted tops and pants, as well as flowing silhouettes and more casual looks. Stand-out pieces arrive in the form of head-to-toe silk swirl-print looks, while a selection of more relaxed merino wool sweaters rounds out the versatile collection.
How did Kenneth feel about this collaboration? “I’m so honoured: Carine has given me such a space to be able to express my own creativity, to have a voice. Just giving someone a voice is so powerful.” With regards to what he has learned, the Austrian-Nigerian designer explained, “I’m coming from a space where I’m not as structured because I’m not as big, you know, so learning how to be structured from such a brand was very important.”
As for Carine, working with Kenneth was “good … because he has a lot of energy, and we need energy now.” Asked if she would love another opportunity to work with him, her response simply was “Just ask me, Kenneth.”