Junya Watanabe has more than a passing fascination with Africa; it’s culture, style and beat. His Spring 2016 men’s and women’s collections focused on the enduring beauty of the African continent and it’s vibe, as seen through the eyes of this very prolific Japanese designer. The men’s collection shown this past summer caused quite a stir as to why there were only white models cast in a show that was clearly an ode to African style, and yes, the same can also be queried about the women’s runway show which followed a couple months later, with another all white cast. Where were all the black models? I can only guess that Watanabe’s interpretation of classic African style became a commentary on cultural appropriation for the Western (and Eastern?) world, in the most positive light, because in the end each and every look, and detail was utterly beautiful.
That being said, I would like to take a moment to bask in the beauty of the star of Watanabe’s women’s collection: the accessories. Tribal-themed circular collars were cut in futuristic black patent and matte gold plastic, placed dramatically over the models’ shoulders. Giant metal discs hung from fabric cords or were tied together with raw strands of rope. Multi strapped body harnesses and tall conical hats echoed the costumes of tribes performing traditional dances. A faux-tiger pelt mimicked in knit draped over strong shoulders, gave one of the best defenses for faking it that I’ve ever seen.
Watanabe’s beauty take on tribal scarification comes across as slightly more futuristic, even though models were wearing flowing voile shirtdresses and robes in basic black and white, and ultimately in a more iconic mix of African batik patterns, a mish-mash of colors and bold animal prints. Every look in the show was finished with a flat lace-up shoe, the best of course, were his pony-skin leopard and zebra printed versions. I love to save the ‘beast’ for last!