We were back in the enormous show space where Dries Van Noten showed earlier in the week. Yet, with fashion being as ephemeral as it is, Junya Watanabe’s vision brought about quite a transformation. The thousand or so chairs had been cleared away – and a small seated catwalk had been set up in the corner of the vast open warehouse space. No set had been built; the backs of chairs were facing out onto vast emptiness.
Some organ music started up and models appeared from a hidden side room midway down the catwalk wearing black swimming caps or origami style headgear. Like Priestesses, the wore geometric headgear that framed the face. Other models appeared wearing 3D sculpted pieces around their shoulders and torsos. The models began coming out in pairs, and were parting ways at the midway exit – so to walk on separately. For the girls wearing swimming caps, the shoulder sculpture looked like waves upon which they were bobbing – and as they parted ways it reminded one of a swimming formation. Like Gloria Swanson androids, they glided with a strange kind of glamour. The constructions either created upper body, full skirted volume or somehow lay flat to create linear shifts. One piece may have been made from hexagonal constructions, but it evoked the 3D form of a thirties Marlene Dietrich coat and had a femme fatale quality about it. Dietrich undertones were accentuated by the use of make-up. Arched eyebrows, architecturally shaded eyelids and a taupe full lip were surprisingly siren-esque for the house of Watanabe.
Notes laid out a few important points. This season’s collection was called Hyper Construction. The geometric shapes were rendered in polyurethane that has been bonded with nylon tricot. It is fabric that is ordinarily reserved for industrial purposes, like lining the interior of a car. In terms of timely themes around man and the machine, this collection cried out to be shown in Manus x Machina, The Costume Institute’s upcoming Spring exhibition at the Met.
The construction might have been hyper, but it also gave birth to some very real, recognisable pieces. There was a black biker jacket with sleeves made entirely from huge circle cut-outs – and oversized ribbed knit collars chimed in on fashion’s love for all things seventies. Colour arrived in the guise of Papal red latticed dresses or a shocking pink tunic made up of shapes that resembled flat cocktail umbrellas. There were too many formations to mention – this really was a laboratory in shape and construction. However, unlike the car factories where machines build countless vehicles, this collection spoke of the human mind and its imagination.