Junya Watanabe is the straightest talker in the often-perplexing Paris-Japan fashion pack. His past few collections have been straight-up riffs on classics - the black leather Perfecto jacket, army fatigues, riviera dressing (although the latter came via Harajuku). Spring/Summer 2012 however saw him in rather more perplexing form - vibrant embroidered lace dresses like Mexican tablecloths, segueing into ruffled toreador boleros in bright cyclamen and azure, segueing into a sober finale of trench-coats, capes and everything in-between. On the feet? two-tone spectator shoes and patent pumps. On the heads? Wild feathered millinery, many of which resembled a cock-fight taking place amidst the models' hair.
How to digest all that richness? You knew it was very very good, all dashing colour and dazzling texture, masterfully mixed together without a stumble. It also all looked highly believable, which given the composite parts is an all-and-out triumph. Granted, you couldn't picture a model dashing between her shows in that get-up, but abstracting parts to slip into every woman's wardrobe proved surprisingly simple. But what was Watanabe trying to tell us?
Maybe it's constricting to try and pigeonhole Watanabe's message with this collection. The beauty of these clothes was that you saw what you wanted to see in them. The Cuban Pete soundtrack made those lacy frocks look a little like crazed Quinceañera dresses (the ruffled Mariachi sleeves on those little jackets helped too), but their easy shape also recalled the twenties, a touch of the blue stocking brigade to the heavy guipure lace surfaces. Was Watanabe offering us a riff on this season's story of sweetness? Or on the Great Gatsby influence that seems to be haunting ever other collection like the green light on the dock? Was it about tropicana - those cockatoo headpiece sometimes looked like hibiscus blooms spilling over the models faces.
Personally, I think Watanabe wanted you to take away your own impression from this show, just as he'll want women to take away their own cherry-pick of the garments. For the record, in my head she's a slightly dotty Brit aristo donning her lace tablecloth and husband's brogues to hunt on the estate while her pheasants wrestle amongst her tresses. And she looks pretty fabulous.