Watanabe brings romance and grandeur to feminine crafts

Japanese designer used patchwork, embroidery, crochet and appliqué

An Aran sweater modernised with black jet beading was one of the items that caught this Irish eye at Junya Watanabe’s collection at the weekend shown in France’s most famous school, the 18th-century Lycée Henri IV.

The taciturn Japanese designer is known for technical brilliance and ingenuity and in this collection he brought a dark Victorian grandeur and romance to time-honoured feminine handcrafts like patchwork, embroidery, crochet and appliqué. A commanding presence at the show was Michelle Obama's stylist, Ikram Goldman of Chicago, along with a clutch of top US buyers.

Detailing remarkable

Circles and crescents of black patchwork in every kind of texture from velvets and wools to mohair, sequins, tulle and leather were worked in rounded, cocoon shapes and the wayward use of such detailing throughout the show was remarkable whether on abstracted street items like duffels or bomber jackets to 19th-century frock coats. Some of the most beautiful and sparkling items were blouses and long stately dresses striped with taffeta, tulle, beading, sequins and velvet.

Like Watanabe, Haider Ackermann used a vamped-up soundtrack of classical music for his show, but there all comparisons ended. In this fluid, rather spare collection with its long coats, lean tunics and floor-sweeping trousers in wool, Prince of Wales check or jacquards, there were many shades of grey and other dusty dark colours. These were clothes for tall women, but shorter fluted jackets with snakeskin sleeves or in armoured leather made for tougher street cool.

Energy and colour


The sheer energy, colour and breeziness of the Kenzo show on a set created by Twin Peaks director David Lynch with distorted mirrors and a huge primitive head sculpture was a heady start to the day.

The two Californians Humberto Leon and Carol Lim are reinvigorating this brand with style and their blown-up coats with bronze detailing, foiled mohair knits, zig-zag optical stripe suits, modern sequinning and even the use of skirts over trouser suits had verve and originality.

Deirdre McQuillan

Deirdre McQuillan

Deirdre McQuillan is Irish Times Fashion Editor, a freelance feature writer and an author