Junya Watanabe’s beautiful Fall collection was every bit as romantic as the show’s venue, the Imperial ballroom at the InterContinental hotel, with its Grecian columns, painted cherubs and gilded boiserie. To the strains of cello concertos and lilting arias, models glided beneath the enormous chandeliers in awning-striped tea dresses, Peter Pancollared jackets over flounced skirts and wasp-waisted tweed suits, trimmed with oversize bows. The silhouettes were right out of a Merchant Ivory period drama, but Watanabe would never be satisfied with interpreting any era so straightforwardly. The hems and sleeves were left raw and unraveling, and the rough, nubby tweeds and tartans were more Artful Dodger than Room with a View’s Lucy Honeychurch.
Sweet femininity and innocence were the order of the day, however, played up via giant hairpieces, teased to resemble frilly, wide-brimmed Edwardian hats or cascading as floor-length Rapunzel tresses that masked both the models’ faces and what they were wearing. Watanabe threw in several amusing riffs on classic Chanel: Madame’s pearl chokers sewn onto sweaters, chain belts threaded through full skirts (the effect was more punk than haute bourgeois) and the whole idea of the proper tweed suit as a kind of social armor.
Backstage after the show, Watanabe described the collection as “classic clothing interpreted in my own way.” And though it would be a stretch to call anything Watanabe does commercial, there were some very wearable pieces here. The slim dresses and flatteringly snug jackets, in particular, will surely be on many wish lists come September.