Felipe Oliveira Baptista and Kenzo Part Ways After Two Years

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Felipe Oliveira Baptista’s tenure at Kenzo is coming to a close. After two years at the LVMH-owned brand, the Portuguese designer will step down on June 30. Where the brand goes next is an open question. 

For fans of Oliveira Baptista’s work, the news of his departure comes as a surprise. With most of his time at Kenzo marked by the COVID pandemic—his first show took place in February 2020, when attendance in Paris was already waning—Oliveria Baptista had to think innovatively and chart a new path for the brand from the start. Speaking with British Vogue in September of last year, he lamented the situation, describing the digital fashion show experience as “poorer” than a physical one. 

Even with the cards stacked against him, Oliveira Baptista managed to bring a new sensitivity and grace to Kenzo, describing his goal to make “the real, desirable clothes lacking in fashion today.” Looking to the brand’s archives, the designer abandoned the emphasis on salable streetwear pieces like tiger tees and sweatshirts that his predecessors Humberto Lim and Carol Leon pushed, and instead focused on the wearability of founder Kenzo Takada’s proposition. Bold silhouettes and lively colors were the backbone of Oliveira Baptista’s three collections, ideas that married well with 2020’s new emphasis on comfort. His recent fall 2021 video was a highlight of a mostly digital fashion season. Models danced wrapped in blankets with moon boots on their feet and critics lauded it as a success. 

Before his death from COVID-19, founder Kenzo Takada also praised Oliveira Baptista’s vision for the label. “Felipe very successfully brought his own identity into the brand,” Takada told British Vogue. “It brings Kenzo to a new creative level.”