Fear isn't necessarily an emotion one expects to feel
at a fashion show, but the thousand-yard stare on one
of Junya Watanabe's models sent a frisson down the
front row. The guy was a ringer for Timothy McVeigh,
the Oklahoma City bomber. Watanabe, though, was actually
taking his cues from another vigilante psycho. His
models in their Mohawks and army-surplus outerwear
(with deeply ironic LOVE appliqués) evoked Travis
Bickle of Taxi Driver, the Scorsese movie whose
soundtrack played throughout.
The designer claimed Bickle as a positive inspiration. "Motivation," he said via his translator. "Men should take charge." However dubious the line of logic, it produced some intriguing clothes. Travis's camo appeared as a beautifully cut jacket; olive-drab made an equally elegant coat. Or it was patchworked for a pair of trousers. A flight jacket was elongated into a parka.
These were all minor masterpieces of recycling. But what made them more remarkable was the sense of an outsider's eye trained wonderingly on an entirely alien culture. Watanabe has always excelled at this perspective. That's how he can conceive of his Travis Bickle in ethnic knitwear, or a shearling-lined nylon jacket in a lustrous, positively glamorous purple. Weird, but also a little wonderful.