For several seasons now, Japanese designer Junya Watanabe has been taking some of our most iconic Western brands, retooling them in his Tokyo workshop, and sending them back out into the world looking a lot less like the everyday apparel of a typical American dude and a lot more like the sophisticated, preternaturally bright and graphic garb of a globe-trotting gentleman. This season’s collection is no different, except that the overarching theme itself is travel (at his shows, the models carried vintage suitcases down the runway to the Ringo Starr track “Sentimental Journey”). For Spring, Watanabe collaborated with revered brands like Brooks Brothers, Levi’s, and Lacoste, transforming stock pieces into reversible, two-in-one outfits that befit any man taking a trip with limited space in his luggage. Safari jackets turned into sport coats, jean jackets morphed into blazers—for a guy who admits to traveling very little, Watanabe is looking out for the itinerant among us. We asked the famously tight-lipped designer five questions on how he operates.
INTERVIEW: Traveling was the inspiration for your menswear collection this season. Did it feel like it was just time to hit the road?
JUNYA WATANABE: When I design menswear, it’s important for me to consider where you wear the clothes and what purpose they serve. This season, I started off with the idea of “wear it two ways,” or, reversible clothes. Then as I thought about what scenes you would wear them in, I came up with travel.
INTERVIEW: Is it more important today that men’s clothes can travel? That they are less precious and more accommodating to a million different situations and time zones?
JW: It’s actually nonsense to link menswear and travel. But it is important that you have a purpose when you design menswear. Also, I think it’s fun that you can change between two styles to match a scene when you’re traveling.
INTERVIEW: Throughout your history, you’ve repeatedly seized on iconic Western brands and rethought and reconstructed them. How do you choose the brands that you want to work with? Levi’s and Brooks Brothers are two American staples, but they couldn’t be more different.
JW: It depends on what I’m feeling at the time. The brands are often starting points. I love workwear and the American tradition. I just love Levi’s and Brooks Brothers, so I used them.
INTERVIEW: Why do you think Japanese designers are so interested in the West?
JW: Western clothes are our everyday wardrobe. But I don’t think that it makes much of a difference anymore whether you’re Japanese or American or European.
INTERVIEW: The song you played during the show was Ringo Starr singing “Sentimental Journey.” Do you travel a lot?
JW: No, personally I don’t travel that much. I usually just have short business trips.
ALL CLOTHING, HAT, AND SHOES: JUNYA WATANABE. SOCKS: APC. LUGGAGE: VINTAGE GLOBE-TROTTER. BELT: STYLIST’S OWN. WATCH: OMEGA. HAIR PRODUCTS: URBAN EXPERIMENT. GROOMING: DENNIS GOTS/COMMUNITY.NYC. MODEL: WILL LEWIS/RED.