This was the only picture of Junya I could find on the web, I think that says something about him. Once pattern-maker and then design protegè to Rei Kawakubo of Comme Des Garcons (who I featured in this post), Wantanabe now heads his own line under his own name. It’s been said that Ms. Kawakubo never once praised Junya during their two decades of working together (I honestly don’t believe this, they’re friends). Perhaps this is proof that tough love works wonders. Junya is consistently one of my favorites during fashion week.
I initially learned about Junya, Comme de Garcons, and Rei Kawakubo after working through a fashion project based on DNA (I’ve referenced this before I think). I decided to drape slinkys, in my mind the perfect physical representation of half a double helix, around a dressform, and then drape sheer knit fabric over that. My design teacher immediately pegged me as “the conceptual one,” and recommended I consult the collections of Mr. Wantanabe and Ms. Kawakubo for future projects.
Junya’s Fall 2009 collection inspired me to create this creepy, digital image for a composition class. We were exploring triangular configurations. Can you count the number of triangles in this picture?
As you can see, religion and fashion are themes I’ve been tooling with for some time. I also firmly believe that this collection is responsible for the popularization of all those puffy, quilted, black coats women have been wearing for the past few seasons.
Check out this video of the show, it’s as creepy as my picture.
I often read Style.com’s collection reviews to find out more about influences behind a specific designer or collection. I hate to say this, but I find fashion journalist Sarah Mower’s reviews incredibly unimaginative and surface level, at best. Granted, not a whole lot of content analysis can be done in three paragraphs, but she’s really not pushing any boundaries here, even when the designers seem to be trying to say something important.
Take this snippet from Ms. Mower’s review of Junya’s Spring 2008 collection, for example.
Using simple materials tethered to bands of utilitarian tape, Watanabe created shapes that wound asymmetrically here and there, baring the back or dipping off the shoulder. A man of few words, the only clue he gave afterward about his starting point was, “It all goes back to Africa.” In retrospect, you could see what he meant, but, as with so many collections these days, it’s not so much the conceptual origin that matters—only whether the designer transforms it into something a woman can imagine wearing. On that score, this collection delivered a rare sequence of delightful surprises.
There lies the real problem with most fashion commentary. In an industry that changes at such a rapid pace, intense, didactic conversations that could interpret the implied significance of a garment or collection, would be both time-consuming, and would require a knowledge of both the background of the designer and the ideas that inspired him or her. Fashion just doesn’t have time to be that self-reflective.
Instead of investigating, Ms. Mower dismissively admits to not having noticed the concept behind the collection, and reminds the reader that it’s not the ideas that matter, but weather or not the collection stirs woman’s desire to own the items on display. In a sense, she’s right. It still feels so wrong though, especially after this collection is met with commercial success and Junya continued to explore the “African” theme the following year, in his Spring 2009 collection. Maybe he’s doing it cause it’s selling, maybe he has other reasons. I’m sure the real answer is neither here nor there, but thinking about his choice to design two collections on the theme of Africa, in very different ways, is interesting.
Also, there is the awesomeness that is Fall 2008.
The things that stand out about this collection are, the amazing headwraps/thought collectors, the ingeniously draped, knit garments, and the relationship of the garments to the human form beneath them. I really like the fact that most of the articles in this collection aren’t tight-fitting or overly dependent on adhering to the rules of high tailoring. Junya’s designs have the ability to transform both the wearer and the viewer. They give our eyes room to find new ways of looking. This excites me.
I’ve been trying to figure out how the garments I’ll create will honor, appreciate, enhance and complement my body, without objectifying it (will talk about this more in a post I’ve titled, Ass·ets). I think the collection above addresses this challenge, and highlights the complex yet beautiful nature of the answer. Also, I read somewhere that performers imitating slaves in the 17th century, way before modern blackface, used to wear masks made of black fabric. This collection reminded me of that.
The genius of the collection was that, for all of the hip experimentation, it was fully tooled as pragmatic daywear—avant-garde, but completely utilitarian.
Less thematically relevant, but appealing silhouettes.
I think I’ve found my first favorite designer.
Love and Enjoy.