Junya Watanabe: Menswear AW23

Junya Watanabe found himself looking to Berlin-based, Innerraum, over the past few months, a brand that works to incorporate the aesthetic of found, futuristic protective gear into a luxury context. By transforming recycled materials through the assembly of extraneous parts, it creates “polyphonic objects” that act as an extension of the body. This swayed Watanabe to dig into his own archives, reinvigorating a select few pieces with that same logical approach described by Innerraum. The result was exo-skeletal accessories such as a monogram harness/back brace, sporadic zipper fastenings, robust knee pads and bicycle helmets for the AW23 season.

It was collaboratively rich too, asserting itself as one of the most brand-heavy collections we’ve seen on the runway in years. 18 entirely separate labels could be seen on ski-style jackets, technical vests and parkas. The list included Oakley, New Balance, Timberland, and Stepney Workers Club for shoes, alongside Levi’s, North Face, and Carhartt. These were joined by Brooks Brothers, Bates, Mystery Ranch, Haglofs, Palace Skateboards, Karrimor, Nanga, Alpha Industries and Champion.

Watanabe corralled so many different spirits into a logical lineup whose language was consistent across every garment. Hisproclivity for bringing black back into sovereignty certainly assisted in the cohesiveness of the range; it was near-universally black. The primary points of contrast came through according to lustre. In leather and nylon, puffer gilets, padded sleeves, quilted coats and military-style cargo vests stood out like subtle treasures amid a sea of black. However, striking burgundy, umber, greige and slate grey accents were present in occasional places, appearing in crisp slim suiting and a tawny patchwork overcoat. A panelled jacket with a high-collar in a gracious grey check had its sleeves rolled up to reveal the tiniest splashes of pink and blue lining.

This is far from the first time Watanabe has creatively unmade and subsequently rebuilt existing designs by other brands before then inserting them in his own collections. If you look through his archives yourself, it’ll become clear that he’s a maverick of the heterogeneous design technique, and this was beautifully exemplified at the show on Friday. He calls it “monozukuri” which, when translated from Japanese, translates roughly to “the making of things” and refers to a synthesis of technological prowess, savoir-faire and spirit of Japanese manufacturing practices. He often describes his designs this way, and it’s a spot-on turn-of-phrase for this cohesively eclectic, grail-heavy autumn/winter offering.

Photography courtesy of Junya Watanabe.


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