“Will The Real Coco Please Stand Up?”

Junya Watanabe Spring 2021 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: vogue.com

I can’t stop thinking about Coco Chanel thanks to the blockbuster Chanel retrospective in Paris, “Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto”. Because its opening was perfectly timed with the advent of Paris Fashion Week, it’s impossible not to think of Chanel’s tremendous influence on fashion. And it is hard not to draw comparisons between what Coco proposed as the uniform for the modern woman in the early 20th century and Virginie Viard’s interpretations for today.

A Chanel “hit” Spring 2021 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: vogue.com

Since taking over as creative director of Chanel, Viard has fared better with the Haute Couture collections; her ready-to-wear is hit and miss. Among the hits for spring 2021: a simply beautiful v neck tunic in white piped with black, shown over white trousers, and a two-tiered black chiffon dress with black feathered sleeves and black feathered hem.

A Chanel “miss” Spring 2021 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: vogue.com

Indeed, there are many more misses: the garish colors, the abstract polka dots and stripes, and the puerile usage of the Chanel logo. The unflattering proportions prompted a designer friend to label the collection “Lane Bryant”. Much of it does not look sophisticated, luxurious, or expensive.

Junya Watanabe Spring 2021 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: vogue.com

With its monotone color palette, simplistic understated luxury, reliance on gender-less wardrobe basics, and numerous takes on the little (and big) black dress, Junya Watanabe looks more “Chanel” than Chanel this season. It’s one of Watanabe’s most succinct and least complicated collections to date.

Junya Watanabe Spring 2021 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: vogue.com

Watanabe’s presentation, held at the Comme des Garcons offices in Japan, took the form of an installation with mannequins and a group of model photographs displayed on screens within the room. It’s perfectly accessorized with comfortable block-heeled shoes and boots in black or white and a mix of elegant pearls and punkish leather.

Junya Watanabe Spring 2021 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: vogue.com

Like many designers, Junya is hit by the nostalgia bug this season. Watanabe says he’s channeling “disco glam with a rocker edge,” but the collection is not stuck in a time warp. To his credit, it looks modern, contemporary, and timeless.

Junya Watanabe Spring 2021 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: vogue.com

Junya’s photo session is a highly effective way to showcase the collection. It plays out almost entirely in black and white with silver touches. We’ve been inundated with so much color and dizzying pattern; Junya’s beautifully simplistic designs and his straightforward presentation is like a breath of fresh air; the ultimate palette cleanser.

Junya Watanabe Spring 2021 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: vogue.com

Instead of live shows, many designers tell their stories and create a mood with ambitious videos and special effects. But, as Watanabe proves, when clothes are really great, you don’t need to add tricky diversions.

Junya Watanabe Spring 2021 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: vogue.com

For spring Virginie Viard pays homage to actresses like Jeanne Moreau and Romy Schneider; muses to Chanel’s house. Junya was also inspired by theatrical leading ladies this season, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Using four fictional stars named “The Spangles “Watanabe reproduces the stars’ costumes in his memories.

Junya Watanabe Spring 2021 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: vogue.com

Junya always focuses on wardrobe workhorses like button-down shirts, Bermudas, bicycle shorts, biker jackets, trench coats, and leggings. The former Comme des Garcons protégé wisely keeps deconstruction to a minimum. The frequent use of togas and caftans conjures memories of Halston. As does Junya’s inspired usage of sequins.

Junya Watanabe Spring 2021 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: vogue.com

Instead of the embellishments looking garish, the overall effect is light, comfortable, and sporty. One can imagine wearing many of these pieces for both day and evening, lounging on the sofa, hosting a socially distant party, heading out for a walk, or in the future, attending a gala. Simply brilliant!

Marilyn Kirschner
Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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