PARIS, France — To flaunt your alchemical genius, take something everyone knows and turn it into something else… or, as Junya Watanabe did in his latest show, a dozen something elses. “Maximising his techniques to their fullest” was the brand manifesto for the moment. Watanabe transmogrified a trench coat — I won’t call it a humble trench coat, because it is more laden with baggage than any other item of clothing, bar the little black dress, which is, of course, why Junya chose it — into a halter-necked summer dress, an apron dress, a hipslung skirt, an exercise in oversize avant-garderie, a tail coat, a jacket and pants, a slip dress, a corset, a suit, a piece of funnel-necked sci-fi, and assorted other incarnations. He shot the traditional tan gaberdine with nylon to give it a satin-y sheen, and he paired his looks with second-skin, manga-bright cartoonery by Brazilian illustrators Bicicleta sem Friero and Barcelonan artist Demsky J.
His iconoclastic alchemising of the building blocks of a Western wardrobe is one of the things we love Watanabe most for. Here, his scalpel-sharp dissections created spectacular origamis from the trench’s achingly familiar components. There was sheer magic in his transmogrifications of the smallest details: a pocket flap, a lapel, a belted waistband. And Junya didn’t stop there. The white T-shirt and poplin shirt, the pinstripe blazer, the perfecto all came under the scalpel. (Eugene Soleiman’s hairdos were a scary co-relative.)
In fashion’s current climate, Watanabe’s remake/remodel aesthetic could be taken as le dernier cri in particularly creative upcycling. You almost wish that was the case, that a thousand lonely old trench coats had given their all to be reborn in Junya’s studio. Except it wasn’t the case here. Still, with the counterpoint of the sci-fi graphics, Watanabe made a convincing enough case for vintage/future that we can only hope he’ll inspire the ingenuity of impecunious youth.