Reminiscence. Junya Watanabe SS22

The big three names from Japan – Rei Kawakubo, Junya Watanabe and Kei Ninomiya – again skipped Paris Fashion Week, and they will probably do so until the pandemic completely winds up. From Tokyo, Watanabe treated the internet with a charming collection filled with gilded draping, filmy fabrics, disrupted tailoring and printed collaborations with Japanese, Chinese, Nepalese, and Thai contemporary artists. He called it “Eastern Reminiscence,” his term for his reminiscences of pre-pandemic travel. Looking through a collection of photojournalism that Jamie Hawkesworth, the British photographer captured in 2019 in Bhutan, India, and Kashmir, Watanabe “became nostalgic for Asia” and “the pure heart of people” he saw there. It was all there to read in the intersections of his gently-elegant folds, layers of glimmering asymmetric drapery, brocades and the fragments of biker jackets, kilts, and men’s tailored jackets. First up: a white dress printed with a skull artwork – part punk, part Chinese porcelain – by the Chinese artist Jacky Tsai, based in London. Watanabe had Japanese heroes working with him too: black-on-flesh-colored patterns in semi-translucent dresses almost as fine as second-skins were by the tattoo artist Nissaco, renowned for his geometric work. A dress with a psychedelic artwork of goldfish and stylized women’s heads came from a 1975 animation by Keiichi Tanaami, the legendary pop artist who has been working  his hallucinatory visions since the ’60s. Powerful hand-drawn black calligraphy by Wang Dongling, director of the Modern Calligraphy Study Center at the China National Academy of Arts, scrolled a Tang Dynasty poem over white dresses. Ang Tsherin Sherpa, a Tibetan artist based in California, creator of modern artworks based on traditional Tibetan thangka iconography, collaborated in orange-blue-green grid patterns sliding sideways over a draped dress. A vivid orange smock emblazoned with flowers and a painted dragon is a Thai fantasia dreamed up for Watanabe by the Bangkok-based illustrator Phannapast Taychamaythakool. It’s obvious how much mutual respect Watanabe enjoys with his creative peers who are all exploring traditions and crafts in free-wheeling, sometimes surreal parallel. The fantastically textured metallic series of evening pieces beautifully related to Jamie Hawkesworth’s photographs of golden female temple deities. This was definitely one of Junya Watanabe’s most inspired collection for a long time.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Disco Noir. Junya Watanabe SS21

Disco is having a rebirth in music – just think of Jessie Ware, Róisín Murphy or Dua Lipa’s latest records. During lockdown, we’ve all dreamed of a care-free party, so no wonder why some designers chose this escapist, joyful theme for the spring-summer 2021 collections.  Discussing his latest outing, Junya Watanabe’s press notes said, “It is a collection that reproduces the costumes worn by the stars in my memories. My memories are monochrome, and I created a photo session with four fictional stars.” The black and white images feature an assortment of apparently black or white looks, plus one or two more in silver. Nearly all of them are sparkling with sequins dresses that get the party started. The 1960s A-line gowns that close the look book, but also the trenchcoats that are integral to Watanabe’s oeuvre, have a disco noir feeling about them. Last season Watanabe paid punkish tribute to Debbie Harry. Though the Spangles may owe a debt to the Supremes, these muses are more abstract. In its spotlighting of sequins, the collection feels of a piece with earlier Watanabe shows that had singular focal points of their own, like army fatigues and puffers. His new season clothes have an easy-to-wear aspect that many have keyed into in this COVID year. I’s a whole lot of caftan-like shapes and leggings, essentially and a stripped-down outing by house standards. The most complex shapes were the coats whose hems looped up, creating generous volumes. But in tricking everything out in spangles Watanabe turned the concept of #WFH-wear on its head. Comfort, he gets. Hibernation? Not so much. Sequins are associated with happier times. If and when the world opens up, Watanabe’s women will be ready to loose themselves on the dancefloor.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.