Why Africa? Why huge headdresses, a scarification illusion on faces, oversized neckbands and wild animal prints on dresses and shoes?
From Junya Watanabe there was no reply and no response backstage — other than pleasure expressed that his collection, showed at the Paris museum of the history of immigration, had been so well received.
The Japanese designer had achieved what he does best: taking a theme but not losing with it the easy freshness of his style. This collection was based on a shirtdress, simple, roomy and with full sleeves, a fashion story of the moment.
But with this basic pattern Junya achieved many different effects, from textured surfaces to the fiery orange-and-brown printed pattern of a tiger skin as a cape.
The vivid colours were out of Africa: yellow, royal blue, orange, white. Occasionally all those vibrant shades appeared as curving stripes on a single dress. Other, more explicit jungle motifs were a zebra print dress with matching shoes.
I am always wary of fashion designers taking patterns and markings or traditional head and neck pieces and using them as eye candy with no reference to the deeper cultural meaning. But this Junya Watanabe show did not seem in any way crude or disrespectful. Rather, it flagged up the beauty of simplicity and then added an African dimension.
It would have been helpful to have an explanation for the inspiration: a recent visit to the continent? A book? Tribal art? But Junya prefers to let his clothes do the talking. And this collection spoke for him in a bold and viable way.