Known for its creative approach toward marketing, fashion house Kenzo once again surprises with the debut of its first original song, "Yo! My Saint!"
Composed and sung by Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O and featuring accompanying vocals by Michael Kiwanuka, it features in a bold music video O created with director Ana Lily Amirpour ("A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night").
Promoting Kenzo's Spring/Summer 2018 collection, the film is set in Asia and features all-Asian cast, including Jessica Henwick, Alex Zhang Hungtai and Kiko Mizuhara. It's the sixth in a series of films commissioned by Kenzo Co-Creative Directors Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, who were named Ad Age's Creativity 50 last month.
The nine-minute story depicts the romance between a photographer, played by Hungtai ("Dirty Beaches"), and his model muse, played by Henwick ("Iron Fist," "Game of Thrones"). It opens with the photographer on a shoot with another model (and O making a cameo as his assistant). But as he takes increasingly seductive shots, Henwick's face invades his viewfinder, his memories of working with her reminding him of something lost.
Job done, he walks through the streets where he sees Henwick's face, shot by him, on a Shiseido billboard. (Shiseido is the beauty partner for the film). The photographer then joins friends in a karaoke room, and his muse reappears on the video screen. In an otherworldly turn, the two then begin to engage in what becomes a sorrowful duet. "You're my saint," he sings. Henwick responds, "Set me free. To live my life. I don't want to be like smoke in a mirror. Disappear like smoke in a mirror. Don't you know my eyes, my eyes they'll see you only."
The film ends with the credits rolling on the karaoke screen. The storyline of the film ties to Kenzo's Spring/Summer collection, inspired by two historic muses for Kenzo, Japanese model and actress Sayoko Yamaguchi and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Music and story held equal weight in the campaign's concept. "Normally with a film, you think of the music second, and this was the reverse," says Lim in a Q&A provided by the brand.
"When I thought of the muses for Humberto and Carol being this Japanese artist and model, it just sparked this other side of my imagination, which is the Asian melodrama that's within me," adds O. (O is half Korean and was born in South Korea.) "For the music, I immediately wanted to do melodramatic and romantic and with lots of yearning and high stakes--all that good stuff that's in any Korean soap opera."
The song debuts globally today on more than 50 music streaming services, including Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, Tidal, Pandora and Google Play Music. Kenzo will be releasing limited-edition vinyl of the tune beginning on January 22 at Kenzo stores, on kenzo.com and later, on karenomusic.com.
On the all-Asian cast, "A lot of what we do at Kenzo goes back to growing up, being kids in the '80s and '90s, and feeling like, 'Oh, remember when it was, like, so not cool to be Asian.'" says Leon in a statement. "We're living in a time where we're super embracing our heritage, and I think that it's perfect that we celebrate the Japanese Heritage of the Kenzo brand, but also celebrating us all as Asians."
Previously, Kenzo has collaborated on longform ads with Spike Jones, Carrie Brownstein, Natasha Lyonne, Khalil Joseph, Gregg Araki and Sean Baker. Last November, it debuted "Season Zero," a short film series helmed by up-and-coming directors for its Fall/Winter 2017 Collection.