The sculpture in the foyer of France’s History of Immigration museum — hobo sacks in colorful Dutch wax fabrics stacked high on a wooden boat — was a perfect primer for Junya Watanabe’s transporting spring collection.
Those Javanese batiks, now revered throughout Western Africa, gave an exotic island flavor to the Japanese designer’s fetish patchworks, here applied to boxy linen blazers, cotton safari shirts, handsome Bermudas and the turned-up cuffs and pockets of weathered Levi’s.
In their crumpled pork pie hats, the models resembled young Vincent van Goghs and Paul Gauguins, who became friends over the latter’s Martinique paintings.
Some might see the Masai necklaces, wooden masks and metal spears as overkill, and insensitive to the darker side of colonialism. Yet the beauty of Watanabe’s pattern mixes and the placement of the scraps — along with the jauntiness of his summer tailoring in rumpled, sun-faded fabrics — delivered a powerful tropical punch.