White shirt, black skirt, strains of Glenn Gould playing Albinoni's Fugue in B minor on a Theme, Junya Watanabe opened his show with the simplicity of the concert pianist, simply adorned with a three-dimensional waffle. That honeycomb structure soon grew into a coat and the theme developed from there.
Looking at the work of Watanabe is like listening to a symphony written by a savant. Mathematical signs crept up the neck of at least one model, further reinforcing this idea. It makes you wonder, in this age where wearable fashion with the slightest personal identity blended in is applauded, where the conceptualists like Watanabe and his forerunners like Rei Kawakubo or the Antwerp Six sprang from, and where fashion is going, if a new generation doesn't step up to the plate.
Although it strikes a conceptual chord, retailers were perking up repeatedly. A distinctive identity does not preclude commercial success, and Watanabe has demonstrated this time and again. In no particular order, a cape that extended into a thick waffle around the back; a coat with honeycomb that tumbled down lapels in a volumetric faux-fur collar effect; leather jackets slashed that formed the waffle by gravity acting on the weighty material. The only jarring note, ultimately, was the monolithical feel that derived from this thorough exploration. The instant the music cut, mid-stanza, it was clear he retreated from this theme entirely. But churning out seemingly endless variations with barely an off-key note is one partition that Watanabe plays to perfection, every time.