"No meaning." So spake Junya Watanabe at the end of one of the most beautifully paced, quietly emotional menswear shows we're likely to see all season. Woody Allen and Diane Keaton Annie Hall-ed on the soundtrack alongside Keith Jarrett's lyrical piano, while lovelorn young men wandered idly in the kind of timeless collegiate garb that lovelorn young men wander idly in. C'mon, Junya, tell us it was torn from the soul of your extraordinary relationship with Americana. Nope. Won't do. Honestly, a working journo could tear his hair out.
Yes, the man is impenetrable, but eventually reason reasserts itself, and you realize that Junya understands that fashion is not about him, it's about us, and the way we relate to clothes. Today, that relationship solicited a particularly misty-eyed response. The set—two park benches in a rooftop studio flooded with natural daylight—had an off-Broadway staginess that instantly intrigued. The interplay of the models suggested an undercurrent the audience wasn't quite party to. And the clothes played to archetypal characters: professor and student, young rivals in love, New England weekenders.
It was one of those moments when Junya's relatively literal interpretation of his scenario (given that there is one, which he, of course, would insist was nonsense) produced pieces that were as desirable as they were comprehensible. A peacoat, a duffel coat, a Fair Isle cardigan, a black leather blouson…who doesn't recognize these clothes? But Junya inserted a design element that lifted each piece into another realm. The Fair Isle was shawl-collared, the duffel had a fetishistic toggle, the peacoat was hybridized with a hunter's jacket. And a buffalo check lined the blouson.
Junya's fashion bricolage pulled together elements that were opposed to the point of randomness. A Fair Isle hoodie? A sailor jacket in khaki? The college boys that ruminated on his park bench at the beginning of the show had transmogrified into hunters by its end. Maybe Mr. Watanabe is as astute an anthropologist as he is a designer—though if he is, he ain't telling.