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Junya Watanabe Spring 2023 Paris cover

Junya Watanabe Men’s Spring 2023 Paris

For his first post-pandemic show in Paris, the Japanese designer offered trompe-l’oeil outfits that were as easy as they were witty. Junya Watanabe Men’s Spring 2023 Paris

An adept serial collaborator fond of American workwear brands like Levi’s and Carhartt, Junya Watanabe for his 2023 spring collection widened his list of dance partners even further to the crème de la crème of American Pop artists.

Keith Haring’s doodles enlivened windbreakers and bomber jackets, and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s crowns and skull motifs were splattered over papery blazers and the ubiquitous camp shirt.

Watanabe treated this fine art with a light and casual hand, letting these blue-chip artworks share real estate on the clothes with popular consumer brands like Coca-Cola, Netflix, and Honda. 

The week before the men’s shows began in Paris, Mihara Yasuhiro turned 50. Having been deprived by the pandemic of “the last show of his forties,” the Japanese designer was in a mood to celebrate for his return to a physical show in Paris.

Or at least that’s what one would imagine from the confetti liberally strewn in the Passage des Princes, one of Paris’ picturesque shopping arcades. It turned out to be one of the many misdirections the Japanese designer played with, starting with the buffet of vegan sushi painstakingly replicating the look, texture and taste of their fish-centric counterparts offered upon arrival.

Further into the arcade, Mihara could be found sporting a high-vis vest and matching sneakers, sweeping the runway strewn clean of foil confetti, as if they’d somehow transferred from his previous show in Tokyo.

Speaking through an interpreter, he explained that given the suffocating times we were living in, the idea of trompe-l’oeil had felt like a good way to turn all those frowns upside down.

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He started off by sending out pieces that were mashups of entire outfits, like a jacket with shirt tails and a T-shirt peeking under the hem; or a sweater knotted at the waist, or rather the sleeves tied at the waist in lieu of a belt. Others were the leftover parts, like boleros that were just the sleeves of a blouson connected behind the shoulder blades.

Later, utilitarian basics were dressed up with prints, like a grandpa cardigan with a camera strapped across the front or a boy scout’s bandana and shirt onto a zippered hoodie (for him); and a belted sequin dress or a tiered pleated skirt (for her). Even the distressing of leather jackets was put on, mimicking vintage clothing, a personal interest of the designer.

Closer inspection revealed that despite their apparent complexity, garments erred on the side of ease. It was all witty and impeccably executed.

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