Junya Watanabe ready-to-wear collection spring 2022

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From Tokyo, Junya Watanabe treated the Internet with gilded drapery, gauzy fabrics, disruptive tailoring – and with printed collaborations with Japanese, Chinese, Nepalese and Thai contemporary artists in Asia and around the world. He called it “Eas-Miniscence”, his invented term for his memories of traveling before the pandemic. Reviewing a collection of photojournalism taken in 2019 by Jamie Hawkesworth, the British photographer in Bhutan, India and Kashmir, Watanabe became “nostalgic for Asia” and “the pure heart of the people” he saw there.

One of the positive effects of working from home is the increased appreciation for everything and everyone who is closest to us. Watanabe’s collection seemed to have sprung from his emotional response to it. Totally true to the inimitable modernist street-romantic style that the West has internalized for so long, this was a subtle reorientation of Watanabe’s perspective on the awareness of intercultural arts and traditions that belong to Asia, in camaraderie with like-minded people who work in the same way.

Everything could be read in the intersections of its gently elegant folds, layers of shimmering asymmetrical drapery, brocades and the fragments of biker jackets, kilts and men’s jackets. First of all: a white dress, printed with a skull artwork – partly punk, partly Chinese porcelain – by the Chinese artist Jacky Tsai from London. Watanabe also had Japanese heroes who worked with him: black-on-flesh-colored patterns in semi-translucent clothes, almost as fine as second skins by the tattoo artist Nissaco, who is known for his geometric work. A dress with a psychedelic work of art made of goldfish and stylized women’s heads comes from a 1975 animation by Keiichi Tanaami, the legendary pop artist who has been working on his hallucinatory visions since the 1960s.

Bold hand-drawn black calligraphy by Wang Dongling, director of the Modern Calligraphy Study Center at the China National Academy of Arts, rolled a Tang Dynasty poem over white clothes. Ang Tsherin Sherpa, a Tibetan artist from California, creator of modern art based on traditional Tibetan thangka iconography, worked on orange-blue-green grid patterns that slide sideways over a draped dress. A bright orange smock with flowers and a painted dragon is a Thai fantasy that Bangkok-based illustrator Phannapast Taychamaythakool came up with for Watanabe.

It is obvious how much respect Watanabe enjoys for his creative colleagues, who all explore traditions and crafts in free, sometimes surreal parallelism. Did all of his fantastically structured metallic series of evening pieces end up being related to Jamie Hawkesworth’s photographs of golden female temple deities? Not really. Maybe not at all. But even with the limitations of digital imagery, it all looked like Junya Watanabe’s most inspirational collection in a long time.


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