JUNYA WATANABE: THE VANGUARD OF REI KAWAKUBO’S FASHION EMPIRE
words by ANNABEL BLUE
In the illustrious realm of Comme des Garçons, Junya Watanabe stands as a trailblazer, the first among Rei Kawakubo’s inner circle to fortify her multi-brand vision. His journey began as a humble pattern maker under Kawakubo’s tutelage, eventually culminating in the establishment of his eponymous label beneath the expansive Comme des Garçons umbrella in 1992.
Watanabe’s creative evolution is marked by a constellation of key themes and influences. Early in his Comme des Garçons tenure, his oeuvre bore the indelible stamp of deconstruction and asymmetry, boldly challenging conventional paradigms of clothing construction. This nascent period laid the bedrock for his future forays into sartorial experimentation.
His technical prowess consistently coursed down the avenues of innovation, embracing technology and novel materials. Renowned for his dalliance with unconventional fabrics, Watanabe wove the threads of synthetic and high-tech textiles into the tapestry of his collections. This fascination with the technological manifested in garments imbued with a utilitarian edge. An exemplary testament lies in his FW23 Men’s presentation, a reverberation of his earlier magnum opus, the Junya Watanabe Fall 2006 Ready-to-Wear. Here, cargo pants, oversized jackets, and heavy-duty fabrics converge to orchestrate a symphony of functionality. The earthy and muted palettes he’s consistently wielded over the years, such as in the enigmatic FW22 presentation titled “The Spiralling of Winter Ghosts,” serve as a harmonious backdrop to his radical visions.
But it’s not just textiles and techniques that propel Watanabe’s designs into uncharted territories. Collaborations with an eclectic array of brands and artists, including Supreme, Levi’s, The North Face, and Innerraum most recently, have injected a dynamic infusion of diverse aesthetics into his body of work. Watanabe’s affinity to music has additionally played an integral role in the fortification of his vision. With collections being inspired by, or including in the runway shows musicians such as Led Zeppelin, or ambient tracks by David Sylvian and Holger Czukay. These details bear testimony to his affinity to eclecticism and his flair for transcending traditional boundaries.
Watanabe’s creative bedrock draws deeply from a well of subcultures—punk, streetwear, workwear—each leaving its indelible mark on his creations. These influences, though palpable, undergo a Watanabe metamorphosis, reemerging with unexpected twists and avant-garde details that redefine the sartorial lexicon.
Amidst the cacophony of experimentation, Watanabe retains an unwavering reverence for craftsmanship and tailoring. His discerning eye marries traditional techniques with contemporary nuances, birthing meticulously constructed pieces with a discernible edge. The boundary between men’s and women’s fashion, in his hands, dissolves into a harmonious realm of unisex elegance.
In the era of fashion’s growing conscience, Watanabe has mirrored the industry’s pivot toward sustainability, adroitly weaving eco-conscious materials and practices into his oeuvre. His commitment to environmentally responsible fashion stands as a testament to his adaptability and social responsibility.
Junya Watanabe’s creative evolution dances to the cadence of personal experiences and interests. His designs are a manifestation of his own odyssey, an introspective journey that resonates with cultural relevance.
Junya Watanabe’s creative trajectory transcends fashion. It’s a symphony of experimentation, innovation, and boundary-pushing—a testament to his unwavering commitment to challenging the norms that define the fashion universe. His designs continue to captivate, evoking the spirit of fearless exploration and unbridled creativity.
director JOSHUA HOURIGAN @joshuajhourigan
producer ANNABEL BLUE @blues_cluwz
stylist VY NGUYEN @ynvynyty
hair & beauty director ROSE LETHO @roseletho
hair assistant CASSIE LAPTHORN @cassie_lapthorne
makeup assistant JESSE FURLAN @jesse.furlan
DOP AARON KASIMIRTSCHIK @aaron_kasimirtschik
1st AC ZAC DEVINE @devine.film
editor & colourist DANIEL WITCHEY @daniel.witchey
sound ANDREA ZATTA @seroquelxr
production assistant IZZY VOX @izzyvoxx
MANAHOU MACKAY @manamackay
BISAAHR PHANTHAPANGNA @bisaahr
CHLOE WORTHINGTON @chloeworthington