Germany is currently fashionable on the Parisian runways: Chalayan may have entitled his A/W 16 collection "Teutonic"; Junya Watanabe included instead in his invitation a pull out in German that could be described as a figurative geometry instruction sheet on "besondere vielecke" (special polygons).
Watanabe described the main design technique in this collection very simply with the words "Hyper Construction Dress". His models were clad in coats, tops, jackets and dresses characterised by geometrical constructions in a palette that at times featured bright colours including fluorescent pink and red.
The garments were worn over very basic looks, mainly skinny black pants or leggings and long-sleeve shirts matched with ballet flats made from hexagonal pieces of leather stitched together (for that ballerina grace added in).
The models' heads were also wrapped in tight latex caps or hidden away by geometrical masks that at times left only a small hole through which a model's eye could be seen.
The collection opened with black skirts with carefully folded rosette-like elements; then constructions became more and more complicated and colour was added in the pleated, folded, pierced three-dimensional configurations that looked like accordions or reminded of dynamic structures built with modular elements.
Parallelograms and triangles followed, and you wondered if Watanabe had spent some time staring at one of those polygon or polyhedra displays that you may find in a science museum to get the inspiration for this collection.
Sharp and angular silhouettes were juxtaposed to softer and round geometries: the former shattered the boredom of an everyday dress and transformed it into a dynamic spiky column; the latter redesigned the contours of motorcycle jackets almost drawing around them the dynamic and invisible forces of a wearer in constant movement (a theme Watanabe also tackled in his S/S 2015 collection).
Quite often it looked as if the designer had worked by accumulation, adding one paper fortune-teller square or modular piece to the next, but there was more to it.
As explained in the show notes, the geometric shapes were indeed rendered in laser-cut polyurethane bonded with nylon tricot, a fabric reserved for industrial purposes such as lining the interior of a car.
Geometries or rather physics was mimicked in the model's movement: the girls came out two at a time at the centre of the runway and walked in opposite directions, maybe to represent the movement of particles, on a soundtrack that featured industrial noises mixed to church music.
Watanabe's passion for inventive crafts, and his obsession for form, innovative silhouettes, advanced math and geometry, aren't new inspirations as his A/W 2015 collection that mainly featured fascinating honeycomb structures also proved. But this time he may have opened a book on computational geometry and tried to solve some exercises on triangulations of special polygons, enriching the code he has so far developed with new structural systems.
Though drenched in mathematical logic, a theme Watanabe has already explored in the past, most pieces (and the matching geometrical accessories such as a tote bag) looked wearable. Indeed, rather than letting one aspect prevailing on the other, Watanabe cleverly balanced craft, design and maths, thanks to complex geometric pattern cuttings that allow the material to open and develop spiky geometries or fold back into collapsible structures.
And that was when you got the epiphany moment: at the moment there is a general madness for cult labels with status but with very little design skills. Yet that can be the next chapter in the history of fashion, but surely not the future of this discipline: you could indeed imagine some of these garments being donned by the women who will populate the planet in the future. One ensemble - a full skirt matched with a perfectly crafted cropped geometrical jacket and a swirling headdress - looked like a crossover between a lady from the '50s and an intellectual avant-garde modernist apparition from the future.
The media are raving and ranting about cult labels, overpriced banal T-shirts and Margiela inspired collections, but Watanabe's compositions and dissections of polygons and his hyperconstructions provide us with a glimpse on a very different future, based on experimental techniques and on in-depth researches in other fields such as geometry and maths.
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