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Mar 23, 2021
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The never-ending season: Junya Watanabe and Undercover

Mar 23, 2021

Just when you thought the major-league designer season was over when along come Junya Watanabe and Undercover with two powerful collections, and shows, from Tokyo.

Junya Watanabe Fall/ Winter 2021

Talk about a homage to rock legends at Watanabe. His collection featured iconic T-shirts from The Who and Queen; album covers from Bowie or concert tour posters from Kiss or The Rolling Stones. Then sewn into all sorts of composite clobber – from Scottish baronial punk rocker kilts to Johnny Rotten Restoration ensembles.
Linking together Versace-like silk Roman prints; cable wools or chinoiserie silks intermingled in oversized flight jackets; plaid punky worker garb and undertaker outfits. Junya even sewed Aerosmith into a great Nordic après-ski sweater, in a show -- staged without an audience -- like a punk revival concert.

His cast’s hairstyles dyed into gothic prints and big-cat colors, their haired spiked like Keith Flint of Prodigy; their necks wrapped in safety-pin chains. All marching in halfway-up-the-shin high-tops.
Even in a pandemic, Watanabe keeps forging ahead; mining the past to evoke a rebellious future. Staged inside a club with a stage set up for a rock-band. Instruments but no actual musicians, instead tracks by all the aforementioned bands blasting out of the speakers.

Junya Watanabe Fall/ Winter 2021

  Though staged a week ago, Watanabe’s photos were only made available on Friday. The same day Undercover’s Jun Takahashi staged his latest collection as part of the largely virtual Japan Fashion Week, financed by Japanese electronic commerce giant Rakuten.
“Since we’re holding the show in Tokyo, we want to convey the fun and power of a ‘live show’,” said Undercover’s designer and founder Takahashi.
The result was an expression of poetic fashion, in a collection that opened with 10 pairs of pajamas for guys and girls into which were sewn Maoist chambray jackets and leather cardigans.  Others were paired with Nordic sweaters that finished at the knee in a co-ed show.

Undercover Fall/ Winter 2021 - Photo:EVANGELION (c)khara

 Takahashi is known for sudden, radical changes of directions in his collections and this was no exception.
Out of the bedroom and into a posh Marvel comic, with supervillains in high-tech trenches with matching masks; leggings and Vietnam vet boots. He kept the action sporty with graphic post-slope puffers; before a switch back from prose to poetry. With elegant top coats finished with spidery sketches of youthful dudes.

Though Takahashi’s best looks came via his greatest talent; assemblage – pulling together matelassé nylon; hoodies; faux shearlings into outrageous outfits that made his models look like modern day urban gunslingers.

Undercover Fall/ Winter 2021

Undoubtedly one of the most powerful shows of this never-ending season, it all climaxed with a couture-worthy finale of fire engine red puffers, some with fabric rose collars, others done in ecstatic Renaissance religious prints; worn over perfectly cut pants and chaps. Ending with a flourish of live ballerinas and figurines; tragic fashion dolls in ribbed leggings, regal puffers and flight jackets in red rose prints.
The 51-year-old Takahashi is arguably the single most important designer in the second wave of designers from his country. Ironically, given Watanabe’s theme, Takahashi’s great inspiration in his youth was Vivienne Westwood.
For the past 16 years Undercover has shown in Paris, the city of haute couture. Again ironically, this was probably the most couture-like collection Takahashi has ever designed, given its intricate cutting; delicate construction and artful draping.  
In a word, a fashion tour de force from a truly fertile fashion imagination.

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