There are designers who are happy to wax lyrical about their inspirationsand then there's Junya Watanabe. He flatly rejected any suggestion of subtext or deeper meaning in his latest collection. He doesn't even like motorbikes. Bikerwear just happened to be a convenient jumping-off point for one of his characteristic meditations on iconic American menswear. Ah, yes, but that's a subtext, whether he likes it or not. Bike boys are laden with connotations (rebellion, the freedom of the open road, the cult of the outsider) and Watanabe underscored the connection by his choice of collaborator: Vanson Leathers, a leading American manufacturer of motorcycle jackets, pants, and biking accessories.
The Watanabe way is to leave no sartorial cliché undeconstructed, so he broke down the biker jacket into its component partscollar, belt, zips, etc.and put them back together in unexpected ways: an elongated version in felted wool, for instance, or a tight little red number, also in felted wool, or a stand-up-collared example with the zipper trailing around the neckline. A fabric biker jacket and matching pants looked like a new kind of suit. And the zips that were slashed all over the Levi's items (the latest examples of his ongoing partnership with the brand) added an edge.
This designer's eye for a classic brand with which to collaborate is unerring. As well as Vanson, he settled on Barbour this time. The khaki oilskin had "cult" written all over it. And yet, in the end, this collection wasn't vintage Watanabe. Perhaps the source material was just too finite, because the delightful disorientation he usually offers on the lethally familiar was not much in evidence here.