The Cult of K*nzo by Paula Varjack

Cult of K*nzo Paula Varjack photo Nikolas Louka

Why do we want the things that we want? A playful critique of consumer culture through the lens of high fashion

Paula Varjack is a stylish and fashionable woman on a budget with her own look and sense of style. Many of her clothes are carefully chosen eBay purchases that she combines into that look. So why did she queue all night to buy a dress from the limited edition collection between high end designer Kenzo and H&M? She spent as much in 10 minutes as she would usually spend in a year and emerged with the largest shopping bag she had ever carried. What was it about these clothes and this brand that made her act so out of character?

The Cult of K*nzo takes an insider’s look at consumer culture through the lends of fashion. It interweaves the stories of one woman’s lifelong desire for luxury and the young Kenzo Takada’s dream of becoming a fashion designer. In a world where you are who you wear The Cult of K*nzo looks at how high end designer brands create desire, the tension between inclusion and exclusion, and the mysterious allure of high end. Why do we want the things that we want? What’s in a brand? 

‘Most of my clothes are from eBay or charity shops’, said Paula ‘but a couple of winters ago I got up in the middle of the night so that I could be amongst the first to buy from H&M’s new Kenzo collaboration. I spent as much in 10 minutes as I usually do in a year! What was it about these clothes and this brand that made me act so out of character? I couldn’t work it out and felt compelled to explore it further; to make a show looking at what drives people to want things that are exclusive, that not everyone can have, and the stories we tell by what we wear. ‘Fashion is an artform everyone is forced to engage with. Whatever we wear expresses something, even if it’s that you don’t want to be seen to show an interest in fashion’.

The Cult of K*NZO interweaves the stories of one woman’s lifelong desire for luxury and the young Kenzo Takada’s dream of becoming a fashion designer. Kenzo was one of the first men to study at fashion school in Japan and one of the first Japanese designers to come to train and design in the West. Like the “she” of the story, he was deeply drawn to high fashion.

Incorporating storytelling, videography, sound design and choreography the show looks at how high end designer brands create desire, the tension between inclusion and exclusion, and the mysterious allure of high end. Why do we want the things that we want? What’s in a brand?

Paula Varjack is an artist working in video and performance. Her work explores identity, community, and making the invisible visible, interested in the gap between what we feel and what we say. Show Me The Money, her previous show, explored the reality of making a living as an artist in the UK. She was recently shortlisted for the Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust award that promotes innovation in theatre. Her debut collection of prose and poetry, Letters I Never Sent to You was shortlisted for the Diva Literary Prize for Poetry and the Polari first book prize.

The Cult of K*NZO is written and performed by Paula Varjack, directed by Martin Bengtsson and produced by Daisy Dockrill. It was co-commissioned by Camden People’s Theatre and Battersea Arts Centre, and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Paula has performed at numerous arts festivals and cultural spaces including: WOW Festival, Glastonbury, Berlin International Literature Festival, The V&A, the Southbank Centre, Círculo de Bellas Artes (Madrid), Musicbox Lisbon and Majorca’s Es Balluard Museum of Contemporary Art.

5-9 February, London Camden People’s Theatre

20 February, Colchester Arts Centre

22 February, Lincoln Performing Arts Centre

9 March, Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester

W13 March, ARC, Stockton

23 March, Theatre Deli, Sheffield

4 April, Quarterhouse, Folkstone

25 April, Theatre Royal, York

27 April, Battersea Arts Centre, London

22 May, Northern Stage, Newcastle

30 May, The Lowry, Salford