PARIS, France — Junya Watanabe, never a man of many words, uttered just two backstage: “Hard work.” And he was talking about why he was looking so trim. Nothing to do with the collection he’d just shown. But in June, when he presented menswear that connected in subtle ways with his new designs for women, Watanabe’s key word was “Faraway”. The word still worked, because he was still there, travelling with nomadic tribes.
The tribal quotes ran a gamut: voluminous draping and folding, wild animal “skins”, colour blocking, graphic indigenous prints. The models’ faces were scarified by makeup artist Hiromi Ueda. The clothes themselves were not Watanabe in experimental mode. There was airy prettiness in cotton shirt dresses, subtly configured in a lace of fronds or camo-like leopard spot. But those dresses were a backdrop. In this collection, it was the accessories that did all the work. The rubber belts and hoops and sculpted pieces that draped the models’ shoulders projected tribal jewellery into the future. Bracelets were revisioned as aluminium rings that anchored the sleeves of flowing linen tops. Torsos were caged in increasingly dramatic swoops of patent leather as aerodynamic as the hats that accompanied almost every look.
One thing that came to mind was Picasso and Braque finding ultimate modernism in the primal forms of African art, but it also looked a little like Watanabe’s original “faraway” inspiration had been co-opted by the simply “far out”.