Dispatches from Paris: Junya Watanabe and Haider Ackermann

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Image: Haider Ackermann s/s 2015, Imaxtree

Junya Watanabe was one of those archly conceptual shows that made your brain whirr. Rather than clocking all the clothes that will be heavily referenced by others in seasons to come, this collection had barely any discernable clothes or easy themes that you could imagine being picked up en masse. Wearability was not at the forefront of this collection. Instead, the designer – who has in recent seasons produced highly influential sportswear, patchwork jeans, brilliant macs and punk leathers – decided to experiment with circles and squares in paintbox bright synthetics.

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Models looked like perambulating paintings, their heads encased in flat spheres of plastic, their scarlet mouths taped shut, one eye heavily made up, the other left blank. The silhouette centred on a T-shirt shape that erupted in bright circles, worn with rubber or nylon shorts that stood abruptly away from bare legs. Dresses were patchworked with multiple shiny surfaces. The items that came close to actual clothes included Junya’s subverted Breton T-shirt (with round red shoulders) or shift dresses made from complex envelopes of shiny shocking pink or sulphuric yellow. Heavy lacquered scarlet (leather?) became a raincoat with cape sleeves, dresses in black and white diamonds or hexagons cocooned the body and gathered at the neck like refuse sacks and full skirts appeared to have been printed with pattern-making instructions with linear grids and splashes of colour.  

As for the brain whirring: the music sounded like a factory production line. Was this Junya commenting on the speed and soullessness of fashion in production? Or were the bright, naïve colours meant to be optimistic or even funny in their clown-like proportions? Who knows. The one sure-fire commercial hit will be the shoes – in pink, blue, green, white and red – in the style of men’s lace-ups on thick flat soles.

Image: Junya Watanabe, Haider Ackermann, Imaxtree

You can spot Haider Ackermann’s clothes a mile off. His signature spiralling cuts, folds and wavy drapes on a super-attenuated silhouette are like nobody else’s – and he’s not about to change his inimitable style any time soon. But where his shows are often sombre scenes of a post-apocalyptic nature, distant drums beating out a funeral march, this season he had lightened up both literally and figuratively. The palette was pale and gentle with dusty pinks, beige, cream and powder grey. And although there was mist in the show venue, an ancient convent, to give the all important Ackermann atmosphere, there was nothing funereal about these clothes, which were light of hand, elegant and serene. The occasional shiny patent leather jeans or stiff black whiplash belt provided the only sharpness to transparent floor-sweeping coats that slid off one shoulder. Trousers suits were immaculately languid, a pale cashmere sweater with a fine-silk back enveloped its wearer and leather or sweatshirt jackets with wrinkled sleeves and wiggly hems were worn with super-full trousers. It was all exactly as you would expect from the designer who makes (very, very) tall girls happy.

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