There are few things as totemic as a black leather biker jacket. And there are few things Junya Watanabe likes more than a fashion totem. This season, his characteristic refusal to give any meaningful statements about his work made more sense than usual. That's because the jacket had spoken for him. From Brando to Vicious, it's been the badge of rebellion, freedom, the consummate outsider. Junya already probed its iconic status in his Fall 2007 men's collection, but here his approach was simultaneously more elegant and more subversive.
That was partly because a decision as perversely simple as adding an hourglass silhouette to a black leather jacket automatically transformed it into a fetish object. Hips sculpted in skin over a flaring pleated skirt were serene yet disturbing, which, in the big picture, could be a metaphor for Junya's entire career. His models were the very embodiment of the notion, quietly pretty with coxcombs of disordered blond or red hair erupting from their scalps. And the leathers they wore were gracefully transmogrified into couturelike volumes: capes, cocoons, ruched sweeps of cowhide. Some of it was real, some of it was fake. All of it was indistinguishable. Perhaps that was Junya's way of saying that the high and low divisions of fashion are truly meaningless now. But at the same time he seemed to be acknowledging the heritage of the garment he'd chosen to spotlight by dressing his leathers in sweeps of faux sauvage fur. Wild ones indeed.
As ever with Junya, the resonances rang loud and clear. He soundtracked his show with a sonorous male voice reading Arthur Rimbaud's "Ophelia," a beautiful, arch-decadent text. Pair that with the leather jacket, the flared skirt, the sloppy knits, the Chelsea boots, and you'd have a tidy composite of a soixante-huitard, the student staple of the Parisian riots in 1968. There's an upcoming Saint Laurent exhibition in Paris that highlights that period, seminal for both society and the fashion that reflected it.