Saturday in Paris. Other cities take it a bit easier on the weekends with late-starting and abbreviated schedules. Not Paris. Not only is there a very full schedule, the designers showing today and tomorrow and the super-creatives, the out-of-the-box thinkers who never knew there was a box. This means one has to actually pay attention because what comes down the runway is not necessarily meant to be wearable fashion.

So it is with Junya Watanabe, a Japanese designer who often works conceptually for his runway presentations. What one sees on the shelves next Spring may have similar shapes on different fabrics, or perhaps be extremely pared down versions of what walks here. What he wants us to see at this juncture is the thought, the creativity, behind the clothes.

For spring/summer 2015, Watanabe works off three basic shapes: the circle, the triangle, and the square. He starts with the circle, large, overlapping, folding, layered, unfolded, cut, then moved around a bit. Some of the earliest pieces in the presentation remind me very much of the paper dolls popular in Japan. When cut out, the circle shapes make for more sturdy fasteners onto the doll than do square tabs. Helmet-like round hats are especially entertaining, and from a pure graphic point of view, are quite fun and a bit comical.

As he moves into squares and triangles, Watanabe begins to define a recognizable silhouette, minimalist in its large, structured outline. There’s a sense of familiarity, finally something that looks like a style our Western eyes recognize, but the extreme textures still keep us watching with rapt attention.

What may be most astonishing is what the designer does with prints. There aren’t but a small handful, but they aren’t patterns or flowers or birds; rather, they’re suggestions of other garments. A denim jacket. A striped tee. A moto jacket. Do the actual designs follow any of those silhouettes? Of course not! They’re prints merged into that circular collage of layers. All the way through the collection, it is not what we see, but the suggestion of what we might see, of what might eventually be there, or of what might be possible, that Watanabe wants us to consider. Look beyond the present form to see the potential.

Everything in this presentation is either plastic (in some form) or leather. Colors are bright primary hues with large quantities of black and white thrown in. The walk down the runway is a visual feast and one dearly wants to explore deeper the construction of these fantastically crafted pieces of architecture. One almost doesn’t care that there’s little to no practicality at this stage. These are so conceptually amazing that buying one would be more like purchasing a work of art, a feeling that often comes from this group of Japanese designers showing today.

So, maybe you won’t be wearing a great big plastic bubble on your head next Spring, but perhaps every time you have your hair styled you’ll think more about the relationship between your hair and your clothes and the very concept of style. If you do, Watanabe has achieved his goal.

Photo credit: Guillame Roujas

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