kenzo’s creative directors: “don't forget about aids, too many people died for you to be here today”

Humberto Leon and Carol Lim — the dynamic design duo behind Opening Ceremony and Kenzo — talk us through their collaborative design for Eastpak's Artist Studio, an on-going initiative that this year benefits Designers Against AIDS.

by i-D Staff and Steve Salter
16 November 2016, 3:40pm

The Eastpak Artist Studio has assembled a star-studded cast of fashion talents to transform a special-edition Eastpak Pak'r backpack into a unique work of art to celebrate the initiative's fifth edition while raising fund for the non-profit organization Designers Against AIDS. Following in the well-heeled footsteps of Jean Paul Gaultier, Walter Van Beirondonck, and Manolo Blahnik, this year's line-up includes Kenzo, Vêtements, Christopher Raeburn, Nicopanda, Ami Paris, Wanda Nylon, House of Holland, Jacquemus, Giambattista Valli, Alexandre Vauthier, Inan, and a Wildcard Competition Winner.

When the world's leading designers are given a blank backpack as a canvas and the freedom to do whatever they want with it, anything can happen. As details and images of the participating artists' creations are released this week, Kenzo's Humberto Leon and Carol Lim share their design. For their piece, Kenzo's dynamic duo have created a brilliantly bold design that marries iconic elements of both brands. After copy, pasting and manipulating some of Eastpak's highly recognizable forms, the canvas is transformed through a kaleidoscope of Kenzo prints. Before the bags are sold online on World AIDS Day (December 1, 2016), Humberto and Carol discuss their role as creative directors in raising awareness and promoting positive change.

When did you first encounter Eastpak and what are your earliest memories of the brand?
From early elementary school, I found an Eastpak bag at Salvation Army and loved it! Its simplicity and durability is a stand out.

What was the catalyst for this particular project? What attracted you to this year's Artist Studio project?
We love the message and the idea of creating something special for the cause.

What was the starting point for reimagining the blank canvas of the Eastpak Padded Pak'r® backpack? How did you begin to distill the Kenzo vision?
We wanted to really have this be a collage of the world of KENZO.

After five years at the creative helm of Kenzo, how would you say your vision has been consistent to your first designs and how has it evolved?
We've always wanted to recreate that energy and excitement around the brand from the time of Kenzo Takada. We feel like we're still at the beginning of telling his story through our eyes.

Both as individuals and as creative duo, what have been the biggest lessons learned at Kenzo?
We always thank ourselves for being so lucky to have an atelier to work with.

In addition to expressing your own unique creativity and artistic vision, the project raises awareness and money for HIV/AIDS around the globe via Designers Against AIDS. Over the years, Opening Ceremony has worked on a number of projects supporting World AIDS Day. What are you most proud of during this time? What more would you like to do?
We think people forget that HIV and AIDS are still huge issues. Today's youth don't have the messages we had in the 80s and 90s. Many are not aware of how many incredible people died due this disease and how millions of people worked relentlessly with governments for countries to take this seriously as a worldwide epidemic. Today, more than ever, there are a lot of young people that are being exposed to this disease and they don't realize the consequences.

If people take one thing away from this project, what do you hope it is?
Don't forget about this disease, too many people died for you to be here today.

Should fashion be political or encourage social change?
Of course. We, as creative directors, always think of ways to encourage people to think about the future and what we can do to help the generations to come.

Is it important to use your platform to affect change? What issues are close to your heart and why?
We can't do everything but we try to do as much as we can. We also support multiple charities each year at KENZO, from Aides and Sidaction in France to the ocean saving Blue Marine Foundation in the UK.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be and why?
Figure out a way to slow down our deterioration of the earth.

The full Eastpak Artist Studio line-up will be revealed on November 21. The bags will be sold online on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2016. 


Text Steve Salter

Humberto Leon
Carol Lim
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designers against aids
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