March 04, 2005 Paris
Girls in tufted, rough-hewn Davy Crockett hats began walking out wearing full-skirt fifties dresses in mohair plaidpart prom, part rock 'n' roll. One had a black vinyl bodice, introducing the masterfully simple melding of old-world fabric and high-tech utility Watanabe calls "heavy-duty couture." The idea came together in a series of blousons and parkas in which an outer layer of tweed was fused onto a shiny synthetic inner shell. An absolutely practical padded checked brown tweed jacket, its generous collar lined in orange nylon, bubbled into a voluminous parallel of Cristobal Balenciaga's tailoring.
Other pieces, bunched up below the waist with parachute ripcords to give a vague sense of the eighteenth century, moved toward the modernist romance that marks Watanabe's most inspired shows. Black high-neck, pie-frilled Victorian blouses and ruffle-sleeve jackets, worn with circle skirts (one padded like a nylon duvet), connected brilliantly with the sober, governessy silhouette that is cropping up as a new direction this week. Watanabe conflates all these complex influences into clothes that look current and simple to wearand that's a stroke of genius.