If so, then designer Junya Watanabe found it — and explored it beautifully for his spring 2018 runway.
Watanabe has been enamored with punk rock in recent years, and he has expressed that fascination through collections filled with ripped tartans, spiked accessories and enough hair glue to outfit half the Parisian population with a mohawk.
But on a gray morning, at the Université Paris Descartes, there was light and joy and pleasure on the runway, along with his punkish women. Watanabe wanted to explore the idea of taking the abstract shapes that appear in nature, that are organic rather than strictly geometric, and transform them into clothes. To help in that endeavor, he turned to Marimekko, the Finnish textile company known for its chipper prints.
The result was dresses, skirts and tops full of volume. They were stitched from fabrics with patterns that evoked a spirited dance captured in a single click of a camera shutter. The shapes, both the two-dimensional printed ones and the three-dimensional garments, were lyrical and inviting.
A long black-and-white skirt was paired with a white top with origami flowers spilling down the front. Long walking shorts were a storyboard of black and white hieroglyphics with splashes of pink. The chaotic, naive drawings on the shorts were complemented by simple stripes on t-shirts. There were green camouflage-print ponchos and long skirts patterned with an impressionistic image of grass, verdant hills, nature.
All of that lyricism was paired with New Balance sneakers that were studded with silver spikes or laced with black satin ribbons. Wrists were wrapped with leather bracelets with jutting spikes. And silver spikes were laced through the models’ knotted hair.
The combination spoke of the natural world and the man-made one, bucolic living and urban dwelling, softness and harshness, ease and tension. Watanabe managed to create a sense of breadth and expansive reach in a collection with closely defined parameters. Its reach was wide even as its point-of-view was sharply defined.
Watanabe’s pleasure in exploring the vast uniqueness of nature was evident. Yet his runway story could have had even more depth had his cast of models been as diverse as the natural world from which he took his inspiration. It was a lost opportunity — not because he didn’t kowtow to political correctness or attempt to reflect the global customer base of fashion — but because he could have told a fuller, more sophisticated narrative.
Watanabe’s spring 2018 collection was enchanting in myriad ways, but it missed a chance to be even more than that.
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