Wabi-Sabi Goes to Work: Junya Watanabe Men’s Spring 2018

In Japan there is an aesthetic term called wabi-sabi, which translated as the idea that fabrics look more beautiful as they age and take on the form, the wear and tear, of their owner. It is exemplified by the use of boro stitching and patch-working that was traditionally practiced by the poorer working classes, to mend their clothes in expensive fabrics to give them a longer lifespan. The more the garment was mended, the more elaborate it became, with some stitching so intricate that it essentially became embellishment.

Watanabe is no stranger to these techniques. Last season he showed a stellar collection with an enormous number of specialist manufacturer collaborations, many of which he has worked with for years; this season he continued with the theme. These included highly covetable workwear from Carhartt, trainers from Vans, incredible denim interpretations from Levis, and technical pieces from Karrimor and The North Face. These were just the labels that we could see, so much so that his own label name was almost completely hidden, elevating the manufacturers and companies that he collaborates with.

The standout pieces were the technical jackets from The North Face that seemed to have flattened backpacks on the back of them, like a beautiful techy trompe-l’œil. These covetable collaborative pieces are sure to be a hit with collectors of both Watanabe and the brands themselves. And, of course, as they age and the wearer takes them out into the forests, or mountains, or simply the urban jungle, they will become more and more beautiful in true wabi-sabi fashion. 

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