The sound of a needle on a vinyl record indicated the start of Junya Watanabe's Spring show. Yet that needle turned out to be a digitally sampled sound, and the scratch of the vinyl became the insistent beat of a collection that had an energy that wouldn't stop.
Watanabe is often in thrall to the romance of the ready-made and is a master of it. The perfect permutations of archetypal garments such as a black leather jacket, a trenchcoat, or a tea dress have all exerted a pull in recent collections—and are motifs that have frequently cropped up in other designers' offerings later on. Yet it was always Watanabe who, literally and metaphorically, showed them how it's done.
Today's collection was something of a break from that cycle. That is, unless you count the ready-made as sportswear—though there was more going on in this collection than could be boiled down in that way. The first model quickly and purposefully appeared like a sprite in curvilinear orange Airtex mesh, with what looked like flames licking round the body. Her glinting headgear was a mosaic of mirror shards atop a pale white face. There was very little opportunity for thought and meaning before she was gone, to be quickly replaced by another and another and another… This collection was utterly unrelenting in its pace and purpose and all the better for it.
The fabrics and the trainers were supplied by Puma, but this was not a collaborative line in the strictest sense of the phrase. Rather it reflected Watanabe's own fascination with the subject matter and his own take on silhouettes exploiting a sporting technical language. At the same time, with its insistent club beat, there was a definite feel of the nineties take on sportswear in all of this. The silhouettes reflected the kind of street-wear brands that proliferated in London and Tokyo then and were worn in clubs at the midpoint of the decade. Things like the futuristic Vexed Generation. Here this was combined with that decade's take on the sixties; there was something infinitely Pierre Cardin-ish about these space-age creatures in their mirrored headgear and their short, tight silhouettes.
There was almost an idea of nostalgia for the future from the past in this show. You get the feeling that progress is not dead for Watanabe and he is always searching for a route to it in fashion. While there may have been a looking back to go forward in this collection, what he presented was utterly contemporary in feel, something both new and now. It was one of the most exciting shows of the week.