Paris Menswear: Codebreaking At Junya Watanabe, Comme des Garçons
The experience of watching a show by Rei Kawakubo or her protégé Junya Watanabe is akin to being given a code to crack, hardly a challenge which presents itself very often in the fashion arena. And that’s why I could reel away from today’s shows in Paris with a sense of achievement. I cracked the code! It mightn’t have been their code, but it sure worked for me. The first clue is always the invitation. Junya’s featured a tripartite photographic exposition of America’s military might. Think about it—that was the average Japanese family’s introduction to the West after World War II. Next clue: music. Junya’s was Charlie Parker’s be-bop. Now you have to imagine jazz as the sound of democracy. Then came the clothes that go with the freedom. At an average fashion show, the pork pie hats, shades and narrow black ties might be set aside as stylists’ flourishes, but here they were finishing touches to outfits that starred the slender tailoring of Parker and his cohorts, emphasised by attenuated silhouettes. Rebirth of the cool? “This is a man” was the theme of the show. It was a real Junya moment.
Mama Rei’s invitation was a plain time and place backed by a sturdy piece of card. Protective? Well, that was a giveaway. The color palette of dun military shades suggested the uniforms of men who are paid to protect society’s values at home and abroad, the shorts over pants were not a new silhouette for Comme but the fact that the shorts were buckled like kilts said “warrior” to me (and probably to ancient armies in the Scottish Highlands). Those same buckles appeared on the sturdy bulletproof-like vests that were shown under tailored jackets. The curious padded sections on those jackets could be construed as coinciding with the vital organs that lay beneath them, just like the knee, elbow and shoulder quilting. Phew! These are clothes, Jim, but not as we know them. Once your mind locks into this conceptual groove, it’s hard to trip yourself out of it. I was imagining the bearish fur coat as being a wrap for the kind of man who might need the protection the rest of the collection was pointing to (i.e. a Russian oligarch). Fortunately, the immortal Alfred Hitchcock had a paraphrase-able response. Ingrid, it’s only a fur coat.
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