When Junya Watanabe has anything to say about his collections, it is often gnomic to the point of obfuscatory, but today's declaration, "Japanese tradition," was as succinctly accurate as you could wish. After what feels like years absorbed by the nuances of European workwear, Watanabe came home this season with a brilliant collection built on boro, the traditional Japanese patchwork that began centuries ago as peasant clothing. It was still the humble working man that the designer was celebrating, but boro has such a dense, furiously worked quality that each garment seemed to be telling a big story, rather like Raf Simons' mobile mood boards the other night.
Patchwork has served Watanabe well in the past. Last season's jeans were instant fashion classics. But boro has a particular beauty that elevated this collection. As a whole suit—in the traditional indigo, but also in
grayish and cream tones—it was the apotheosis of the hobo chic the designer has made a signature of.
But boro wasn't the only Japanese tradition he was honoring. Ancient motifs like camellias and waves were integrated into patches of pinstripes, check, and denim, or woven into spectacular T-shirts. A soundtrack of that salt-of-the-earth traditional entertainment, sumo wrestling, accompanied the show. The models sported lacquered hairpieces by Tomihiro Kono, based on sumo styles. After a few minutes of wrestlers slapping and grunting, jazz kicked in, a reminder of Japan's extraordinary ability to absorb cultural imports and make them its own. Then there was a burst of the stringed koto, the country's national instrument. Accessories were workers' flip-flops and a simple square of printed indigo fabric knotted into a sack, carried in the hand or slung across the chest. Its rejection of excess means that Watanabe may have unwittingly come up with Spring's It-est man bag.