Despite the singularity of his vision, Junya Watanabe's clothes more often than not serve to galvanise the spirit of the times, chiming with what others are thinking, but stamping with his indelible mark and inevitably taking it where no-one else has gone before. This season, Watanabe's febrile mind alighted on the general feeling for army surplus - a feeling indeed, that has simultaneously emerged in what feels like every other collection. But, as ever with Watanabe, these were not by rote trend-chasers - his imagination inventively galvanised this theme into a definitive vision.
Watanabe took his cue, initially, from camouflage - colouring his garments in the sandy brown, dull green and khaki of the print. The shapes, by contrast, felt taken from Christian Missionary garb: button-front, vast-skirted woollen Princess line coats sliced into minute multiple panels, each one topstitched. Later, those same stitch details came out on traditional nylon army parkas, seams puckering, drawn in at the waist and flitting into volume over the hip. Hooded ponchos came in fatigue-hued wool wool, fur-trimmed hoods wrapped heads, and camouflage true was sent out as patchworked melange leggings, curvaceous skirts exploding with tulle, or pleated and twisted into asymmetric dresses that seemed collages of pintuck and frill.
There was a constant tension between masculine and feminine, fit and flounce contrasting with those military fabrics and details (buckles, straps, drawstrings and heavy militia footwear for a start) while skirts were pleated into volume and jackets stitched and shaped like Victorian bodices. The silhouettes were redolent not only of corsets and crinoline but of Dior's New Look, another reference that has been tugged out again and again this season. The shape of Watanabe's flared-hem fitted-waist coats and peplum jackets seems to be inevitable for winter - but this collection made them his own, and in doing so produced some of the season's best. For all its echoes in the work of his contemporaries, this collection was undeniably, unmistakably Watanabe. The fabric treatments, the shapes, the colours, and above all the endless, endless invention were his and his alone, and it was an experience as uplifting as the gospel soundtrack to see it expressed with such continual, and indeed amazing, grace.