Inside the Kenzo x H&M event

Dancers, musicians and models joined forces with A-listers Lupita Nyong’o, Joe Jonas, Chloë Sevigny, and many others, to celebrate the launch of this year’s most sought-after collection. Here’s the full recap – minute by minute.
28 October 2016

For Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, it’s a jungle out there. So, why not look good in it? On Wednesday 19 October, the creative duo showed a new limited-edition collection to celebrities, fans, and friends of the brand, debuting Kenzo x H&M on Pier 36 in New York. Vibrant, explosive, diverse, ecstatic—it was wild.

Kenzo Creative Directors Carol Lim and Humberto Leon on the red carpet at the Kenzo x H&M event.

19:00: As the sun set on a deliciously warm day in New York, scores of men in tiger print pants and women in embroidered dresses descend on Pier 36 on the tip of the island. But the event that has gathered them up here isn’t some fringe festival. Within the hour, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, who, oh, look, have just arrived, will debut their collection for H&M. And the occasion has baited all the coolest cats to come out and play.

19:06: A fresh-faced Elizabeth Olsen has turned up evidently well-rested and ready to celebrate, decked out in a set of silk pajamas and velvet pumps. A passerby appraises her and offers her one-word assessment: “Dreamy.” 

19:14: Chance the Rapper makes his way down the black carpet, outfitted in a sweater and jeans and, of course, his usual swagger. As one of the faces of the collection, Chance is particularly enthused to be here. And when someone compliments his dress, he beams.

Kenzo x H&M campaign stars, Chance The Rapper and Xiuhtezcatl Martinez wore the collection to the party.

19:19: Behind him, model RJ King and artist Charli XCX have joined the festivities. The latter admits that her jacket—an exuberant pink and animal-print confection—is keeping her quite warm. “But it’s worth it,” she adds, insisting this writer feel its sumptuous collar. She’s “in the mood” to celebrate, looking forward to the release of her newest track. After the Afterparty is due out next week. “I’m ready to dance,” she promises. Ahead of her, RJ King chimes in that he’s perhaps never been more relaxed at a fashion event. He’s clad in a t-shirt and jeans, a white sweatshirt tied around his waist. “This is pretty amazing,” he says, pointing at the sweatshirt. “But each piece is so dope.”

19:22: The atmosphere is raucous—an explosion of wild color and sound. DJ duo The Misshapes are so taken that they’ve have barely made it past the door when they resolve to take a selfie. They tap and wait for the animal-themed filters, of course. “We’ve known Carol and Humberto forever,” Geordon Nicol of The Misshapes gushes. “They’ve all been the same—their kindness, their energy, their inclusivity.” 

“Their generosity,” Leigh Lezark adds. “They’re just the greatest.” 

Vietnamese rapper Suboi is one of the Kenzo x H&M campaign stars – of course she wore the collection head to toe.

19:27: Suboi, the rapper who Humberto Leon and Carol Lim tapped to front the collection, leaves her arms free and wears her elaborate coat over her shoulders. Given the weather, it’s more for decoration than function. “But if it monsoons later,” she hazards, trailing off. She’s ready to take on the elements.

19:33: Rosario Dawson vogues for a dozen cameras, reveling in the glow of what seems like a million flashbulbs. Pop-pop-pop—Dawson strikes pose after pose. “Kenzo is just outrageous and out of this world,” she declares. “To have this collaboration and have that reach—it’s fun, it’s wild, it’s raw. It’s insane.” Dawson, who stars in ads for the collection, smiles once more for the cameras. But she abandons the photos for a moment when she spies Lupita Nyong’o just a few feet away. The Queen of Katwe star has materialized in a floral-and-animal-print mini dress from the collection that will soon be for sale all over the world. Nyong’o is thrilled. “Style shouldn’t have a price tag,” she insists. “Yes!” Dawson cries.

Singer Joe Jonas looked dapper in a shirt from the Kenzo x H&M collection.

19:38: Meanwhile, Joe Jonas has joined the fun. And while he’s happy to socialize for a few minutes, he admits that he’s most excited to find his seat and see the show. “It’s two of my favorite brands—Kenzo and H&M,” he says, adding that he has his eyes on a few of the reversible items for his own closet. “To be here in New York City to watch it happen, it’s amazing.” 

19:50: Lucky boy! He barely has to wait. Minutes after his arrival, the crowd is ushered into an all-black arena. At the center of it all is a literal black box—a mystery draped in black cloth and anticipation. In his front row seat, Jonas clasps his hands together. It’s showtime.

19:57: The room goes dark and a beat—at first quiet and then much, much louder—reverberates. The music swells. Above our seats, a string quartet has started to play. And across the space, a conductor in a tiger-striped beanie waves his baton to direct the madness.

19:59: And then! The curtain drops, revealing a pack of beatboxers and trumpeters in head-to-toe Kenzo. The loudspeakers blasts Sam Spiegel’s exultant remix of Express Yourself, cuing pairs of dancers to strut into the space. The show—some cross between an interpretive dance and an ecstatic pep rally—at once bears the hallmarks of Humberto Leon and Carol Lim and pays tribute to brand founder Kenzo Takada, whose mix of theatrics and fashion enchanted his fans over four decades ago.

20:00: A collaboration between Jean-Paul Goude, who shot the collection, and Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, the 20-minute set is a composed medley of artists, models, instrumentalists, and even an entire drum line. Out in the wild, the clothes come alive.

20:02: Whistle blow and the music speeds up—a frenzy. Ferocious, a section of the crowd howls. Rosario Dawson claps her hands and tapes her toes to the infectious beat.

20:11: Models in furry bomber jackets and a zoo of prints take a twirl around the room, this time swinging two, three, four Kenzo totes each. If the audience for a moment lost themselves to the music, they quickly remembered what they came for. To shop!

20:14: And when a streak of women in the same floor-skimming printed dress appears, fashion icon Chloe Sevigny leans forward and grins. She’s wearing it, too. Next to her, Dawson gives her a squeeze. Look!

20:15: As the tempo inches ever faster, the full cast races back into the room. This time, Leon and Lim follow. As the crowd hollers and claps, a shower of confetti rains down. Elsewhere, Suboi raises her arms skyward—she got her monsoon.

20:21: Moving at warp speed, a swarm of bartenders sets up full bars around the perimeter of the room. Beers and drinks circulate while the dancers, elated, make a break for mini takeout boxes. Dumplings, meatballs, popcorn—the platonic post-show sustenance.

20:26: But some attendees forgo the food for now. They’d rather shop. Behind a set of curtains, a pop-up store is now open for business.

20:35: Charli XCX examines a stack of squiggle-printed sunglasses. Yes, she decides. She needs these, tossing them into her mesh shopping tote.

20:38: “What do I need to get?” a woman in head-to-toe leather wants to know. “Everything,” cries her companion.

After the Kenzo x H&M show, legendary rapper Ice Cube took the stage.

21:01: Laden with goodies, show-goers stream back into the hall just in time for a surprise Ice Cube concert. A crush of fans and dancers and famous faces and even Humberto Leon rush the floor, a tribute to the environment that the brand has created in the midst of a more somber season. “I needed this!” Dawson shouts. Us, too.

21:24: Preferring the Kenzo Jungle to the metropolis beyond it, the masses are in no rush to leave. So, we dance. And even this writer lets loose. But it’s not all animalistic oblivion and wild abandon. We have purchases to watch over! These are precious goods. Leopards—we never change our spots.


The KENZO x H&M collection features fashion accessories for both men and women, and will be available in selected stores and on starting November 3.