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The dream of Junya Watanabe | article

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The dream of Junya Watanabe | article

Post by xyz on Wed Jun 05, 2013 12:47 pm

V magazine interview with Junya Watanabe - Mar/Apr 2003



Photography by Yelena Yemchuk

The dream of Junya Watanabe

There is a family portrait of the Surrealists, all lined up in their dark suits and ties, looking more like accountants than the provocateurs who would go on to turn the art world on its ear. It is not a stretch to imagine designer Junya Watanabe at home among this crowd. Clean-cut, boyish, and surprisingly conservative in his blue button-down shirt, khakis, and sneakers, there is absolutely nothing on the surface that points to the strange and wonderful world churning inside that imagination of his. His collections have offered glimpses. Over the years Junya has treated the fashion world to dresses in theform of huge honeycomb confections, handbags thattransform into coats, and this season, an 18th century silhouette that somehow parachuted its way into the 21st. Sitting down with the designer, you can't helpbut feel that you are doing all the talking. He is man of few words, and apperas happier letting the clothes speakfor themselves. Alix Browne

ALIX BROWNE I'm interested in talking to you specifically about the Spring collection but also more generally about where you think it fits in right now with the current climate.

JUNYA WATANABE In fact the general fashion ckimate is more your job than mine. I work hard to make my own collection so I don't have a lot of time to assess what's going on outside. I'd like to ask you more about that.

AB I think right now, with what is going on in the world, with so much uncertainty on so many levels, people were really drawn to your collection. It was almost transcendent. Very spiritually uplifting, very light. A Marie Antoinette silhouette contructed from parachutes. Like an 18th century fantasy with a very soft landing into the 21st. What were you thinking at the time when you were designing the collection if not whatwas going on in the world outside?

JW I do live in the world and see people and what they wear so it must come into my mind, what people like and what will fit in the world,even if it is only unconsciously. But the point with this collection was to find a new silhouette, a shape that is new to us. Specifically, it was using bags, or backpacks, to work them into the clothes to make the new shape. Until now we've been exploring new techniques and new ways of cutting patterns to make the new shapes, but this time on of the points was to use something that already existed - a bag - to make a shape that hasn't existed before - at least not to us.

AB Were you thinking of parachutes at all? Have you ever been sky diving?

JW No.

AB Did you do any research into 18th century dress? Or was this allusion merely a coincidence?

JW I didn't have any reference to the 18th century, it was just a result. We were playing around with the bags and in the end it became those shapes.

AB Women at the time really did strap themselves into those elaborate underpinnings.

JW The straps for me were parts of the bags, like the straps of backpacks. You can make them shorter or longer. So on the other hand, I researched a lot about bags, the backpacks that mountain climbers use. Those bags have little pockets here and there, adjustable straps; it's very practical, utilitarian. I wanted to use this idea but without the bag. The dtraps make the clothes look as if a backpack had been there.

AB Does the past, or does fashion history, interest you at all?

JW Fashion history interests me, and I've studied it, of course. It's in my head somewhere but I don't directly bring it out in my collections.

AB Some people think of fashion as a reflection of the times, others like to think that it's more prophetic. In a way, people can look at your collection and say it has no connection to what is going on right now. Is fashion for you an escape?

JW Hmmmm... It's probably true somewhere that clothes might reflect on the world we live in, ut when I'm designing I don't think about that a t all. If people look at the collection and feel uplifted or good, that is merely the result. I think part of it might have had to do with the space and the feeling of the show, the presentation. Not only the clothes, but also the space and the hair and the makeup - it all comes from how I'm feeling at that moment.

AB So how are you feeling at this moment?

JW Probably thinking about the next collection. Probably a lot of the other elements were inspired by the venue, the museum - the space and the feeling of the space. I was researching a lot of show spaces - I'm always thinking of course how I am going to present my clothes - and when I walked in I felt that there was something in common with what I do. I don't want the clothes to look practical, or like everyday streetwear. I want to show the creative side. And when I walked into the museum it had a big impact on me, the fact that one person and his creativity were all packed in there. It was a big inspiration for me.

AB So you found this space before you began working on the collection?

JW Yes, it was before I started working on the collection. The sculptor whose work is in this museum, when he was making the sculptures he wasn't thinkin what was going on in the world. The show was held was the garden, where the sculptures actually are, but beyond that is the space where the guy worked, his atelier. It's not the sculptures themselves but the space, the fact that one person worked hard in that space to fullfill his creative feelings that made an impact on me.

AB What role if any does the idea of beauty play in your work?

JW I have a sense of beauty. And that's why I make the clothes. But this sense of beauty is something that is my own. It could be diffeent from a general sense of beauty, what everyone else might think is beautiful,though. I don't know. It is simply what I think is beautiful. It's not something I should say in words. I make the clothes and what matters is what you feel when you see the presentation.

AB You have worked with Levi's on your men's collection. And now I understand you are doing something with Nike. How has working with these companies changed the way you design?

JW Working with different companies, and expecially with companies that have been cncentrating on one thing for a long time, had had a big impact. It's not only the end product but bow they work - what they do first, step by step, and the way that the details they work with and the know-how all comes through. Both Levi's and Nike have their own way of doing things. It's difficult to work with someone who has a different system but it also makes you grow as a designer. I think if them as my factories. They have the machines and the technique, the know-how that our factories don't have.

AB Can a new technique inspire an entire collection?

JW The idea comes first. I want to make something and then I ask What do I need to make it real and to make it the best? For example with Levi's, they had everything so I approached them.

AB Are your ideas sometimes too big to be realized technically? Do you find you're dreaming of something and then you can't find the means to make it a reality?

JW Yes. There are more instances when the ideas are too big.

AB So then what?

JW I give up and move to the next. I'll wait for something to come along.

AB Have you ever entertained the idea of designing something else besides clothing?

JW No. Fashion is too big in my mind. I can't think of anything else.

AB I think people are fascinated by the way you work. In a way it's too easy to pick up references - in movies or old fashion images - and make them into a collection. It seems that fewer designers are working genuinely from the inside. How do you keep all the noise from coming in and distracting you?

JW I don't think that being in Japan is being isolated. I wouldn't say I'm isolated or shut off from the world. I live my life like veryone else, I walk around, I see architecture, I go to movies. Something that inspires me will always come into my head and stick there. It might be an inspiration for the next collection. I don't think I could do this if I were living on a deserted island. Maybe you think I love like one of those Zen people. It's not the way it is at all.

AB You just strike me as someone who has an ability to stay focused and not really care about being a part of the whole fashion scene. You seem to have a very quiet and confident sense of purpose.

JW Thank you.

AB I just think you have such charisma as a designer that people will respond to what you do whether it has anything to do with what's going on in fashion or not. I mean for spring the trend was miniskirts and you were showing these long, voluminous silhouettes.

JW Also thank you. Thank you very much.

AB It's rare. And it puts fashion on a different level.

JW I feel like I am being complimented and I'm not used to it.

AB I hardly believe that. Are you very self-critical?

JW I'm critical just like everyone else must be critical of their own work. In my case, I have other people to be critical towards my work.

AB How many collections are you designing at any given moment?

JW There's the women's, the men's, and now a women's line that has sort of branched out from the men's line.

AB Do you keep them separate in your head creatively? Or are they somehow connected?

JW The men's and women's brands have totally different concepts so I think of them separately, totally separately.

AB Your men's line is more like real clothing, jeans and T-shirts, and the women's has this huge element of fantasy. What is fantasy for men? Do they get any of this in their fashion?

JW Basics. Men don't have much fantasy for clothes, I think. It all comes down to the basics. That's the point of starting the menswear. For the women's I research with fabrics and shapes and the patterns; with the men's I really wanted to do something basic.

AB Doesn the men's reflect your personal style?

JW I do like basic for men but that wasn't necessarily the reason I started the men's collection. I wanted to work with basics so that I could become more creative with the womenwear and the way to do that was to start another brand because you can't do something very explorative and very basic in the same collection.

AB A dress can have so many different lives depending on who is wearing it and how they are wearing it and where they are wearing it. So you think about where the collection will go, what kind of life it will have, once it leaves your hands?

JW It's something that I think about,and it's very important, how to show the clothes with the hair and the models - they are all part of it. But I don't see people wearing my clothes much.

AB Sometimes the image a designer presents in a show can be so strong that people who are shooting the clothes or even considering buying them see that image and can't think of anywhere else to take it. In some respects, this strength of vision is the mark of a good designer. But it can be very interesting to see someone look at it from a completely different perspective and take it somewhere you never imagined it would go.

JW If it's strong, the different image someone makes, then I like it. But it depends.

AB Would you be shocked to see a girl, walking down the street in New York or paris or Tokyo wearing one of the more extreme looks from the current collection?

JW I can't really say because I've never really seen anyone wearing one of the extreme pieces. I can't really say how that would feel. My job as a designer is not to - well it is to sell, because it's a business - but not to think about what people what, or how a normal person walking on the street would look in my clothes. That's not what I design for. If a person bought one of the extreme pieces, she must have a reason for it. She must like it or have some sympathy with the design, so that's good. But whether she looks good in it or not is for the people around her to decide.

AB Is the biggest compliment to have someone wear your clothes?

JW Of course.

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