Kenzo Takada was born in 1940 in Kyoto, Japan. Dissatisfied with the literature studies prescribed by his traditional innkeeper parents, he went to Tokyo, where he worked as a house painter and took evening classes in studio art. In 1958 he joined the predominantly female student body of the Bunka Gakuen School of Fashion.
In 1960 he won a Japanese fashion award, the prestigious Soen prize. He began working for the Sanai department store as a designer of girl's clothing, making up to 40 styles every month.