In Felipe Oliveira Baptista’s second collection for Kenzo, his message for spring/summer 2021 at Paris Fashion Week was a clear encapsulation of our collective need for protection reigning supreme in these trepidatious times. An ode to beekeeping uniforms, the brims of the headgear had veils that cascaded to shield the models’ faces, at times reaching ankle-length. This sheer shrouding was transposed onto hoodies too, almost providing a screen of additional protection from one’s surroundings.
In a year where obscuring half our faces is the new normal—and will likely continue in the foreseeable future, the all-around shielding of the face strikes a resonant chord. Beyond protection, the delicate fabric forcefields feel timely and right for this cultural moment. Actual beekeeping uniforms are kept pastel and mild so as to prevent agitating the bees. So Baptista’s choice of look-at-me florals and pollination-friendly colours come across deliberately sardonic but cleverly thought out.
More muted interpretations of the beekeeping world came in the form of utility pockets and strategic cut-outs that brought to mind cavities of honeycomb one would find in a beehive. Over on Kenzo’s world on Instagram, Baptista’s referenced Irving Penn’s iconic 1995 photograph of a bee resting on a pair of bright orange lips—then coining the term ‘bee-stung lips’.
The leitmotif of bees in this collection is telling of Baptista’s masterful grasp of nuance: bees are at once delicate, dangerous yet crucial to our ecosystem. Head-turning, attention-seeking beekeeping gear might be counterproductive, but in Kenzo’s hive, it speaks to the larger contradiction of simultaneous fragility and optimism.