Junya Watanabe is less a man of few words than a man of two words: That's all you'll ever get out of him (if you're lucky) after his shows. This season the words were "geometric sculpture"but as gnomic as that sounds, the amazing collection of draped gray jersey he had assembled actually needs no further explanation. There's a level at which intellectual justifications for clothing become tedious, and there was nothing difficult to understand about the beautiful complexities of the charcoal- and marled-gray knits Watanabe wound and rewound about the body in a zillion inventive ways.
Call it a modern progression of the thinking of Madame Grès or Madeleine Vionnetthe principles of Grecian draping thought through in knitted geometries of squares and circles. The technical wizardry allowed jersey to flow into belled sleeves that somehow were also part of the drape of a hem, or into fluid blousons and bubble-back silhouettes. The cumulative image was one of covered-up elegance (reemphasized by veiled faces and gloved hands) and a sinuous move toward a longer line.
Both developments place Watanabe firmly at the leading edge of this season's new ideas, even if the way he showsin a long, drawn-out fugue of a presentationis singularly at odds with most designers' sound-bite style of showcasing their work these days. Still, it was well worth hanging on to the end, for that was when Watanabe sent out a spot-on contribution to the season's debate about the need for new tailoring. Leaving aside the trouser skirts, in which the crotch was situated three inches above the ankle (please), the top halves were extraordinary feats of cut. The arms-free peacoatsin which the sleeves seemed to have become part of a caped backturned an ordinary basic into something immensely desirable. Like the jackets in Watanabe's last "African" collection, those will have women fighting at the registers.