Designer Junya Watanabe created a great spring-summer 2016 menswear collection which had as its theme the concept of “Faraway”. The collection featured many garments inspired by traditional African clothes and accessories and was created in collaboration with Dutch company Vlisco, which is a company that has been a strong supplier of fabric to West and Central Africa since the mid-19th century.
The collection sparked a bit controversy in the fashion world, some people claiming that it was in a way an ode to the West’s colonial history. However, many of the garments reminded of the designer’s work with boro, which is the traditional Japanese patchwork that has its origins in the clothes worn by peasants back a few centuries. In Japan, there is a belief that when a certain element is damaged and mended, it has no other direction to go than to become more beautiful. Being able to decode this message from Watanabe’s collection, one gets a lot of sense into the designer’s mindset. Watanabe is most likely to have seen the controversy that could be caused by this collection, but made sure that he conveyed his message by using sartorial elements charged with his message. It is a great example of how clothes can become symbols, even though they are hard to decode.
Seen in this light, Watanabe’s collection not only merges cultural elements, a merge that results in a new, original vision of culture, but also creates a lot of beauty in the world. Watanabe managed to create a collection that is true to himself (the trousers and denim, the strange Breton top, the sharp tailoring on shirts and jackets, etc.), but to communicate a message that he found in a source of inspiration and processed through his personal filter as well.
The clothes, which were abundant in colors, patterns and unconventional lines and shapes, were very elevated and smart. Even though at first, the clothes might have seemed to be a little on the “unwearable art” side of fashion, once broken down, one can see that the pieces are in fact wearable and can be mixed and matched in an infinity of ways.
This spring-summer collection was also a great lesson of mixing prints and patterns: Junya Watanabe used so many prints and patterns together and managed to do it in a remarkable and extraordinary way, giving everyone a lesson of how you can wear multiple prints or patterns at a time and look great.
In a way, the collection reminded us of a cubist painting, cubism being a movement that was also strongly impacted by African art.
Thanks to the beautiful colors, the mix of patterns and the patchwork technique which was reoccurring throughout the collection, each individual look had a strong character. One might wonder who the man who wears these clothes is. Is it a tribesman who dreams of the West or is it a Westerner who dreams of Africa? While we don’t know exactly what Watanabe had in mind when creating the collection, we can say that the man who wears this collection is either an explorer, who likes to travel but go beyond being a tourist or a man who is or wants to be complete: city and nature, here and there, conflict in peace.
Panama hats, bow ties and sockless brogues were some of the accessories that have been added to authentic African accessories. One can notice how strong the impact of accessories can be: great accessories can make an outfit, even if the outfit consists of a simple, neutral suit.
This complete experience communicated through clothes and accessories seemed to turn the models themselves into cultural objects – therefore, in a way giving us a new spin on the definition of fashion as a creator of new ways of living and of personality.
In the gallery below, take a look at some of our favorite looks from the collection:
Fraquoh and Franchomme
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