Junya Watanabe’s design reputation is that of a true original. He doesn’t imitate or derive, and if he does, it’s deliberate. It’s easy to imagine him working, head down, doing his thing at a healthy remove from the fashion bubble in his Tokyo studio, yet it’s hard to believe he’s unaware of what’s going on. So when his collection notes circulated an hour or so after his fall show, stating “No Theme. In contrast to the constructed pieces of recent seasons, Watanabe wanted to transform the most basic of garments in existence into something new,” an initial reaction was — somebody named Demna Gvasalia is already doing that.
Watanabe showed drab, oversize men’s suit jackets, pulled, tucked and retailed with impressive seamwork into special silhouettes over cheapo floral print pants, shiny bright leggings, tube socks and more hideous giant dad sneakers, the fruit of collaborations with Reebok’s Freestyle Hi and Buffalo shoes. There were pin-striped blazers and trenches, then sporty parkas and puffers in cobalt blue and red refashioned as capes. Shapeless faded floral wallpaper housedresses were fused to natty knits. Clumpy faux furs and oversize graphic sweaters looked like something dug out of your parents’ attic. The models had greasy skin and punky blunt-cut hair that might’ve met with a pair of dull kitchen shears.
Was Watanabe thumbing his nose at grungy elevation of Eastern bloc everyday wear of Vetements? Anything you can do I can do better? If not, then Watanabe, like the majority of working designers, is not immune to influence.