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On Via Manzoni, a busy boutique-lined street in Milan, an air of excitement surrounds the reopening of the Kenzo store, which officially marks a new chapter in the brand’s relationship with the Italian style capital. Spotting an amusing sculpture depicting a hand lifting spaghetti from a bowl – the only local reference – passers-by are drawn into a brightly lit space where racks in anodized aluminium and glass display cases contrast starkly with marble floors and clothes from Kenzo’s latest collection.

Debuting in Asia this year, the retail concept conceived and realized by Carol Lim and Humberto Leon is a considerable step forward in Kenzo’s evolution. The new shop interior definitely feels different from that of the label’s former creative director, Antonio Marras, who – back in 2009 – went for a multicultural blend of oriental inspiration and an Art Nouveau acknowledgement of the brand’s French DNA.

The 246-m2 space in Milan covers two storeys that are linked by a striking marble staircase in lapis-lazuli blue, the same material used for the cash-and-wrap desk. Although the neutral palette and the ceiling grid of fluorescent strip lighting give an initial impression of a sanitized environment, on closer inspection one notices the quality of the materials – concrete and various types of marble – along with numerous custom-made pieces of furniture, such as sofas and poufs in soft leather. It all goes together to provide a warm and harmonious ambience and a relaxing shopping experience.

Since 2002, Lim and Leon have been pushing the retail envelope with their own successful brand, Opening Ceremony, whose hybrid formula allows them to showcase emerging designers and curated collections in Manhattan (see Frame 102, p. 148, for an interview with Lim and Leon). Having taken the helm of Kenzo’s creative direction in 2012, the New York-based duo is demonstrating the youthful energy that played a major role in their appointment, as they tackle the design of the label’s flagship stores.

Photos Annabel Elston, courtesy of Kenzo

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