Junya Watanabe seems to be in love with the idea of the ready-made—a piece of clothing that a whole collection can sometimes spin around in its many permutations. In recent years, season after season, he has presented something archetypal and iconic and, somehow, reinvigorated the view of it. During this process he has never bored the viewer or the wearer with the pieces' multitudinous forms; it's something of an achievement. Perhaps the greatest example of this was Watanabe's black leather jacket collection of Fall 2011, which also dealt with, in a hefty aside, the codified garments of punk. Quite a few people attempting to do punk collections this season should really read that one and weep. In fact, it appears that many have: Watanabe is one of the designers that has been most heavily borrowed from recently.
So today, at his own show, where Watanabe seemingly presented his own past collections as the ready-mades and decided to liberally lift from himself, there was a kind of cheeky meta-fashion. It was like a recent-hits compilation (and Watanabe's hits have a hefty dose of sampling) with a variety of remixes. Nevertheless, what he offered felt fresh, fun, and audacious today. He even accompanied the looks with high heels for the first time. They added to a sense of rebellion, maybe even a rebellion against the preconceived notions of Junya Watanabe.
The black leather jacket collection had a starring role, coming to the fore and peppering much of the proceedings. The Perfecto-style jacket, the symbol of rebellion, seemed to become fused with the bric-a-brac of leftover fashion in the first looks. These were the kind of fabrics found hanging around in secondhand shops. The models' bird's-nest wigs also gave that feeling of the detritus of fashion. There were hints of the reconfigured denim from Watanabe's Spring 2009 Africa collection, as well as his punk patchwork jeans from Fall 2011, here given a much bigger starring role. An additional spin on the trench also appeared again, this time seemingly cross-fertilized with the Perfecto, producing a profusion of zips. It all added up to a feeling of playfulness, and yet a strange profundity about the passing disposability of fashions.
If Rei Kawakubo is the queen of Paris fashion in terms of consistent innovation, then logic dictates that Junya Watanabe is the crown prince. Yet does a wider public quite realize this? Watanabe is one of the great contemporary designers; he's hardly an unknown, but he deserves a much broader audience. Hopefully, with this collection he will get it.