A master of Japanese deconstruction presenting a vision of French seaside chic worthy of the Gallic gallant Jean Paul Gaultier? It seems implausible, but that was the case with Junya Watanabe's latest collection, barcoded with matelot stripes, splashed with nautical anchor prints and topped on each and every look with a straw boater.
Or so it seemed at first glance. 'Tokyo dolls' was Junya Watanabe's answer to the inspiration behind his S/S 2011 collection, referencing those babydoll and sailor-suit attired hoardes of Harajuku teenagers in the ironic almost-identical uniform of teenage rebellion. That was underlined in the accessories, not just the hefty boots and brightly coloured hair, faces veiled so fashion was the only distinguishing factor. There was a similar identikit feel to the collection, with subtle variations on the sailor theme. Those straw boaters were a meat metaphor: each one technically the same, and yet subtly different through shape or trim.
That of course is what Watanabe does terribly well, spinning out a single idea into infinity. This time stripes were the main idea, turned and twisted around the body, panelled into chevron effects on skirts and worked in knits that appeared to melt organically around the form. Straightforward cotton shirt-dresses resembled Edwardian children's garb, with flat sailor collars, pintucks and voluminous skirts. They somehow managed to stay the right side of capacious, as well as skating that tricky infantilism issue inherent with such wilfully childish garb. In short: it was easy to imagine many women wearing them and looking great. Trench coats were sliced-up with draped panels of soft georgette, gathered and looped around the figure to create final garments that were quietly sensational, oddly satisfying. They had very little to do with the over-arching theme, of course, bar a collar detail or touch of a ruffle. But they were fantastic and desirable. Forget the theoretical mumbo-jumbo, that's what's really important.