PFW: JUNYA WATANABE F/W 2014

One thing about watching a Junya Watanabe show: it’s not going to look anything like last season. Ever. The Japanese-born, Paris-trained designer starts at absolute zero with every collection. He claims he is inspired by nothing in particular, designs for no one person. He just goes with what he feels. For fall/winter 2014, Junya Watanabe is feeling very black.

In describing this show to you, though, I think I have to first describe the models as best I can. The look is very androgynous, with eyebrows taped over and the most pale foundation possible applied. Against this all-black collection, the models almost appear ghostly and photographers were having a very difficult time getting sufficient exposure for the clothes without totally over-exposing faces. Each girl’s hair style was different, but it all was matted, heavy with product, and completely misshaped. The effect was a bit other-worldly, perhaps something from out of a post-apocalyptic future.

Watanabe started each look with black leggings as a foundation. From there, he used patches of black cloth, some well cut and seamed, others more raw and ragged. So, midst a flow of petal-like pieces, there is suddenly a patch of sheer, or sequins, or mesh, that runs totally counter to the rest of the garment. One almost gets the feeling that Junya creates a shape with the larger pieces of fabric and then goes back and fills the gaps with odds and ends from his scrap table; except that, to some degree, this entire collection looks as though it were pieced from his scrap table.

Don’t go thinking that the collection is totally without convention, though. If anything, there’s a surprising amount of femininity to this line, which I wouldn’t have expected. Junya is very much into ruffles this season, and uses them heavily, which means lots of large skirts and voluminous silhouettes. At the same time, though, he attempts to constrain that volume with what are some incredibly well-designed capes and an intentionally ill-fitting tuxedo jacket. Toward the end of the collection Watanabe reconstructs a biker jacket with one look and then comes up with a totally unexpected puffer look in another. With most any other designer we might be scratching our heads, but at this show it all flows quite naturally and makes perfect sense in its own way.

Models sauntered down the runway at different paces, some incredibly fast as though they couldn’t wait to get out of the clothes, and others more like they were taking a casual walk through the library. The longer the show went, the more strange and outrageous the hair styles became. What is a Junya Watanabe collection if it is not, at its core, a defiance of standards in every form? I will not be surprised when he decides to drop models in by parachute or some other non-standard method.

Junya Watanabe is an acquired taste, to be sure. Not everyone can wear these unique creations and come off looking good. Not everyone needs to wear these unique creations, though, because then they wouldn’t be all that unique, would they? Take a good look at the collection if you can and decide whether a Junya Watanabe piece is right for you.

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