The Junya Watanabe Man show was held outdoors and against the backdrop of giant hedges -- and in the middle of Paris to boot -- but thanks to the bib overalls, duck boots and rubber Wellies, it felt for all the world like a slice of the English countryside.
That is until you noticed that the overalls were done in suiting fabric gray with subtle pink pinstripes, bold blue and white checks or plaids -- or solid shades like sky blue or tuxedo black.
There were certainly other things worth harvesting from Junya Watanabe's garden party -- patchwork denim blazers, contrast patchwork work shirts, and some nearly winter-weight technical outerwear pieces, but for some reason it was the simple act of taking an upscale approach to that onesie of the workingman that seemed to capture everyone's attention.
Even one of the photographers at the show (and realize that the fashion runway photographers are among the most jaded fashion show attendees you'll likely encounter) mentioned it as we climbed on the shuttle bus to the next show.
"You know, if there was ever anything that would get me to wear a pair of overalls, that'd probably be it," the photographer said to me.
Which sums it up perfectly.
-- Adam Tschorn, reporting from Paris
Photos: Looks from the Junya Watanabe Man spring and summer 2012 runway collection shown on June 24 during Paris men's fashion week. Credit: Michel Euler / Associated Press.
The discipline with which Junya Watanabe approaches a collection is incredible. This season, he turned his laser-like focus on the iconic black leather motorcycle jacket, reinventing it in the most haute ways -- sculpted at the waist, as a cape, even in a retro, ladylike cocoon shape with dropped shoulders.
The all-black palette was punctuated by a leather skirt and jacket in a lacquered caramel color resembling burnt sugar.
Eventually, the jackets over skinny pants and flippy mini skirts segued into draped black dresses with furry accents. One asymmetrical style with fuzzy faux leopard fur panels brought to mind a hood ornament.
Still, the best dresses were the more obvious riffs on the biker jacket, particularly the style with ruching at the waist, a giant zipper down the front, leather cuffs and collar.
Harley not required.
-- Booth Moore in Paris
Photos: Looks from the Junya Watanabe fall-winter 2011 runway collection shown during Paris Fashion Week. Credit: Jonas Gustavsson and Peter Stigter / For The Times.
Take a simple concept and riff on it endlessly. That was the recipe for several spring collections shown in Paris over the weekend.
The horizontal Breton stripes that have been all over the streets like a rash since last year have trickled up to many a designer runway this season. But in Junya Watanabe's hands, stripes became extraordinary.
Turning them every which way, he created Op Art effects on T-shirt dresses, coat dresses and long skirts.
He added to the seafaring theme with nautical-prints (think lanterns and life preservers), canvas windbreakers, softly draped chiffon trenches, and straw boaters. (With their heads covered by stockings, the models looked even more like faceless mannequins than they already do.)
At Comme des Garçons, Rei Kawakubo's concept was somewhat more mysterious. A coat with other coats hanging on its back, or a thick black strip across the front like the bars across photos in a worst-dressed fashion spread.
A dress loaded down with other dresses, or sculpted into perfect shape with a molded leather bra, wide, waist-cinching belt and full skirt.
What did it all mean? When I saw a white jacket with a black band stretched across the bodice from sleeve to sleeve, preventing the arms from moving, I had an inkling it might be about the toll of fashion (the excess, the extremes to which we mold and adapt our bodies, etc.) In other words, this was a show about fashion victims, which is amusing on so many levels.
For the finale, models came out in pairs, attached like Siamese twins with a dress between them. Were they bound by fashion as kindred spirits, competitors or something else? Who knows, but as always, the collection was a mindbender.
Viktor & Rolf designers Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren have had their share of mind-bending collections, too. But this season's was not one of them.
Instead, it was centered around the concept of a man's button-down shirt (which we have seen them do at least once before). The designers reimagined the shirt as a pair of cropped pants with French cuffs, a shirtdress with an open collar tilted to one side to reveal a bare shoulder, and another shirtdress with jersey insets at the waist and sleeves.
But between the awkward silhouettes and cheap-looking satiny fabrics, it was clear that this time, the shirt got short shrift.
Photos top: Looks from the Junya Watanabe, left, Comme des Garcons, middle, and Viktor & Rolf, right, spring-summer 2011 runway collections shown during Paris Fashion Week. Credit: Jonas Gustavsson and Peter Stigter / For The Times. Photo left: coat from Junya Watanabe. Photo right: dress by Comme des Garcons, middle: two models from the Comme des Garcons runway show. Photo bottom: Shirt from Viktor & Rolf. Credit: Jonas Gustavsson & Peter Stigter / For The Times.
It's always such a pleasure to see designer Junya Watanabe make poetry out of cloth, working and reworking a theme in a thousand original ways.
This season, he brought grace to the military trend by marrying it with his signature Edwardian-inspired tailoring. It was all in the details, from the notched Velcro cuffs on the fatigue green hourglass shaped jacket, to the frothy crinolines peeking out from the back slit of a fitted camouflage skirt.
Then the camouflage print became camouflaged itself on micropleated and asymmetrically-draped silk dresses, some shot through with Lurex thread.
Flying saucer-shaped blond wigs added whimsy to the collection, which was chock full of interesting ideas -- and things to wear.
Clean, controlled and free of extraneous details. That was the take-away from the Junya Watanabe collection, in which the men's suit was the starting point for a rigorous exercise in tailoring that resulted in subtly feminine details.
The jacket was the centerpiece, and Watanabe molded it like clay, pinching fabric at the small of the back to highlight the waist, and placing jutting darts at the hips to emphasize the hourglass shape.
The basic white button-down shirt was cut and draped, ruched and tucked to create softly sculptural dresses, worn over black leggings.
Then things turned edgier -- as if the men's suit went on an acid trip -- with black-and-white checkerboard and houndstooth-patterned, sharp- shouldered jackets. Rather than buttons, they were held together with chains. Softly cocooning, asymmetrically-draped mini skirts and dresses had a bit of the Mad Hatter in them.
It was a marvel to watch the creative process unfold. But pick apart the collection and there was actually a lot to wear.
The blue patterned cardigan that First Lady Michelle Obama wore to the Royal Opera House today was avant garde fashion with a capital "A." The sweater, with its one-sided check pattern and asymmetrical button placket, is by Japanese designer Junya Watanabe (is this the first time she's worn a non-American designer?), who started working under Rei Kawakubo at Comme des Garcons before launching his own label in 1993.
Watanabe's runway shows are always among the most artistic of Paris Fashion Week. He's showed sculptural takes on the tailcoat, the military jacket, even the jean skirt. For fall, he focused on the puffer coat, sculpting and molding it into elongated, Victorian-looking dresses and cropped shrugs.
With their odd folds and uneven hems, his clothes are not for the timid. They require work and imagination to wear. Obama paired the sweater with a traditional-looking teal dress by Jason Wu. It was a contrasting color but I think it worked. What do you think?
-- Booth Moore
Photo: Sarah Brown, right, wife of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, meets with First Lady Michelle Obama at the Royal Opera House in London's Covent Garden.
PARIS -- It's always interesting when fashion deals with the idea of permanence, which is so antithetical to the whole 'here today, gone tomorrow' enterprise. But that's exactly what Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren did with their provocative Viktor & Rolf collection Monday with a visual pun on the overused term "classic."
Against a backdrop of classic marble statuary, they sent out clothes in all shades of stone, with details that mimicked the draping and pleating on the marble figures. They started with skirts and coats molded and folded into stalagmite-like points, before moving into soft silk and lace draped or seamed to evoke similar sculptural features.
The words "NO HUNTING, NO FISHING, NO FIREARMS without written permission" above the photo of a majestic elk adorned the invitation to the Junya Watanabe Comme des Garçons Man show, and the Fall 2009 collection trained its sights on the rod & gun crowd for inspiration.
The label is known for its collaborations with iconic American and British brands, including Baracuta, Levi's, Brooks Brothers and Tricker's. This season the label tossed Portland, Ore.'s Pendleton Woolen Mills buffalo plaid checks into the mix, metaphorically -- and in some cases literally -- turning the brands inside out. Sure, it's a theme that Watanabe explored last season, but a gray pinstripe suit that reverses into a hunting jacket complete with ammunition pockets and a quilted recoil shoulder pad is more than a money- and space-saving "twofer." Watching how quickly a poacher in pinstripes can go from hedge fund to hunter makes you realize how little actually separates the two types of blood sport.
The collections in Paris have just begun and already they are 100 times more thought provoking than anything we've seen so far. Designers aren't just showing clothes, they're commenting on the cultural tide.
At Balenciaga, it was another chapter of Nicolas Ghesquière's extraordinary science-fiction fantasy. I imagined Earth in the year 2058, after the ecological apocalypse. No more nature -- just machines.
Life exists in shades of pale and metallic, ready to take on the colors of the flashing lights above. Models don't just look like androids, they are androids -- with nude bodystockings framing their beating hearts. They walk on air pockets, so as not to touch the too-hot ground. They wear strange modular jumpers -- like galactic lederhosen or papery thin pants spliced with black, like shards of the night sky.
The spring season's most impressive jackets came in micro-pleated silver and gold, as if they were molded from variegated metal. There were also wiry silver "fur" jackets and scaly "mermaid dresses" (actually made of ribbon fused with metallic film) -- the exotic skins of the future.
Forget Mickey Mouse, the Marlboro Man and Coca-Cola, the U.S.-born cultural icons that used to unite the world. Soccer is the international icon for today. At Commes des Garçons, Rei Kawakubo played with the hexagonal shapes on soccer balls, flattening and molding them into shoulder pieces, helmets and the bodices of tops.
A sport historically played by peasants, soccer is the great unifier, the great leveler, which made it all the more interesting to see these sculptural clothes in the context of Kawakubo's usual aristocratic touchstones, the powdery wigs and tailcoats.
Junya Watanabe weaved a culural tapestry too, mixing African fabrics with denim, gingham and eyelet, draping, twisting and shaping the fabric into long, bustle-back skirts and feminine jackets. It was a dramatic scene, with cornucopias of dried wildflowers balanced atop the models' heads. And on the sound system, the tribal beat played on.
-- Booth Moore
Top two photos from Balenciaga Spring/Summer 2009 runway show in Paris. Credit: Jonas Gustavsson / For The Times. Bottom photo from Comme des Garçons. Credit: Kirk McKoy /Los Angeles Times