Spring 2021 Menswear
Photos by Junya Watanabe
The Masters of Japan
A Collection’s Journey Through the Heart and Soul of Japanese Craftsmen
There has been much talk and speculation regarding the “future of fashion” and what the industry looks like post-pandemic. For a business commonly accused of taking itself too seriously, being forced to halt the fanfare and production was a wake-up call for many. Junya Watanabe, for one, is usually a Paris Fashion Week headliner, packing a front row full of international press, buyers, and influencers hidden behind darkened sunglasses harking their importance.
Like many other designers showing in the aftermath of quarantine, Watanabe’s Spring menswear collection for 2021 looks a bit different. Presented to the world via book, as opposed to digital, Watanabe showcased his latest work on the backs of lauded Japanese craftsmen, traveling all over Japan with samples from his collection, photographing men such as a samurai sword-smith, a bonsai master, a sushi chef, a fly fisherman, a mechanic, a bar owner, and a renowned DJ. The result is a magical album of highly crafted clothes from a master, displayed on and celebrating other men of the same caliber, in industries that span the talents of local Japanese, all across the country.
The collection is full of classic Watanabe staples – baggy, cuffed denim, and loosely tailor jackets shown with patchwork accents and exposed stitching, as well as graphic t-shirts with images and text borrowed from some of Watanabe’s favorite books, magazines, and comics. The looks were relaxed and polished with trousers hitting above the ankle, shorts falling below the knee, and crotches falling low and loose. None of the clothes looked out of place on men not accustomed to a runway, instead it was a testament to the wearability and modern style of Watanabe’s aesthetic. He titled the show “Manual”, a nod not only to his use of literary references but also to honor the craftsmen bringing the show to life, men who, like Watanabe, use their hands to bring function and beauty into the world, a far, welcome, cry from the traditional pomp of fashion.
By Elizabeth Kramsky