“Cowboys and Indians,” a boy’s game? Junya Watanabe’s Summer 14 show this morning belied any hint of that, as the designer explored Wild West iconography, a fashion obsession as well-worn as a cowhand’s workwear. It takes a man like Watanabe to take a theme that has been done to death, and nail it so perfectly. It’s not just a new lease of life for it, it’s a new definition. Why his name isn’t more widely applauded is quite beyond reason, but as he is one who prefers to let his work do the talking, it’s perhaps not so surprising.
Repetitions, in his hands, are never boring. Rather, they show just how versatile a singular point of origin can be. Fabric showed its mutability, used in varying sizes, wrapping the body in fringes tied here and there. Of course, it’s not any old fraying, the arrangement of strips espouse the roundness of a shoulder, or fall off a hip in a manner that leaves nothing to chance. Tied, artfully arranged, sometimes beaded, the knotted jersey was as methodically arranged for effect as the models’ mop of braids were unruly.
Ranch-flavored it may feel, but this is not just for the boho crowd looking for a new twist. There’s a sense of polish that permeates the collection, its sophisticated palette of lush cream, striking blue and black variants. The biker, always a target for hybridation for Watanabe, is here left almost untouched – well, not counting its already impeccable proportions – save for a shrunken waist. A fringed mackintosh evoked rugged durability. And let’s not forget those studded ankle boots.
Despite the editorial appeal of those fragile feathered headdresses, there were some real winners. After all, his foremost skill is his ability to perpetually update both personal obsessions and any theme to create something wildly relevant.