Dojo is—if Wikipedia is to be trusted—a Japanese term meaning “place of the way,” and “a formal gathering place for students of any Japanese martial arts style to conduct training and examinations.” At the Kenzo show in Paris, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim played with this notion of gathering space, of Japanese heritage, and of movement. It was held at the Maison du Judo, located at the southernmost periphery of the city—the New York equivalent of the outskirts of Queens.
But it was worth the trek. The fashion set arrived at an enormous gymnasium, high-ceilinged and cavernous. The seating encircled the gym space, where 3×3 stacks of red and yellow mats were neatly arranged. Before the lights dimmed, a group of guys discreetly took seats on an elevated balcony. Suddenly, the lights flashed on, and a gang of boys hurtled to life, leapfrogging from the rafters like the cast of West Side Story, cartwheeling and catapulting down to and then across the mats. They sent a shiver of unexpected excitement that rippled throughout the whole room, before disappearing. Jungle sounds–croaks and cricks of the underbrush—gave way to a pulsating score by Nicolas Godin of Air, a wild, shimmering arrangement that launched the stylish safari.
There were lean boyscout-ish khaki blazers with slim shorts; cuffed button-downs over long-sleeved tees festooned with the words JUNGLE or ROAR; billowing shorts and trousers in charcoal, burnt sienna, sulfuric yellow, limestone; leopard print spots blown up and abstracted—turned almost floral and painterly—on zip-up vests and the sleeves of a varsity jacket. The accessories were quite remarkable, notably duckbilled hats (totally reminiscent of Nate the Great, beloved child detective), waist-hugging satchels, thick-strapped patent leather sandals, and croc-printed round sunglasses.
After looping around the runway, each model took his place on the mats. At the end, they all stood in formation: immobile elegant sculptures, frozen in the wild.