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Junya Watanabe AW16
Junya Watanabe AW16Photography Evan Schreiber

Junya Watanabe’s cut-out couture

Japan’s techno couturier puts on a breathtaking display of origami-like garments crafted from polyurethane

Hyper construction dress. That was the clue thrown out after Junya Watanabe’s singularly technical collection.  The mathematical theory of geometry in German was printed on the invitations and the dresses that we saw mirrored the compass and protractor renderings of circles, parallelograms and triangles. Polygon-shaped helmets and elliptical spheres obscured the heavily made-up faces with arched Marlene Dietrich brows, contoured cheekbones and black latex wig caps. They looked severe and sharp – much like the laser-cut polyurethane, bonded with nylon tricot, that dominated the collection. Watanabe has often explored the tropes of traditional workwear and as the focus fell on this industrial fabric, used mainly for car interiors, the mechanical and utilitarian once again came to the fore.  

Using mathematical logic to defy fashion’s logic is also something Watanabe has explored before but here, it was his sole focus, as he eked out dresses from complex geometric pattern cutting until they started to collapse in on themselves. Towards the end of the show, the dresses became less perpendicular and the shapes more haphazardly placed together, like the scribblings on a mathematician’s chalkboard going askew. This was Watanabe showing off his technical prowess as well as maddeningly trying to find an answer through numbers. Everything can be quantified, but does it necessarily need to be?