PARIS, France — As the opening look inched forward at Junya Watanabe, classical chords were struck up, resounding regally against the book-lined walls of the elite Parisian school Henri-IV. It offered a sense of occasion that befit these hallowed halls of learning. That was the theme. Then came the aurally brutal variations that rang true to Watanabe’s tropes.
This dissonance echoed the soundtrack, a patchwork of clashing notes that jarred deeply. And in the clothes, there was a definite leaning towards this technique Watanabe frequently favours but had not taken as a reference in itself. Here delivered in variegated weights of black through the texture of the fabrics selected, patchwork has regal leanings far removed from its folksy connotations. No doubt it take a designer of the calibre of Watanabe to use it in such a radical way.
Take the circle as a starting point. Circles formed most of the elements — the body, intersecting each other in magnificent, extravagant excess. Even a sleeve’s volume curved to connect the shoulder to the wrist on a mostly leather jacket. Later on, a handsome cape was a duffle revisited through its rectangular components, a montage of squares and pockets that made a handkerchief shape.
It’s perhaps that idea of infinite variations around a central unmoving theme that is the most striking in Watanabe’s oeuvre. Note that it was simultaneously tailored within an inch of its coattails — should you discern those under the flurry of circles of fabrics that made for a blossoming shoulder line — and sporty in its approach to a puffer jacket or quilted coat in shiny technical material.
Few could take up a circle, a swatch, and a strip of fabric and turn it into garments so integrally elegant yet wholly radical. Here was the symphony of a mad genius. Or at least one mad enough to take on any archetype and remake it anew season after season.