Punk fashion could be reduced to a basic code made of DIY shirts and leather garments, spiky hair and studded clothes. Junya Watanabe has a soft spot for punk rock, but for his S/S 18 collection, rather than mixing it with mathematical equations and geometries (even though they were there...) or Harajuku-inspired bold colours, he opted to turn to Finland.
Watanabe's new designs, showcased at the Université Paris Descartes during Paris Fashion Week, were indeed made with nine fabrics by Finnish textile and clothing design company Marimekko.
The shapes on the runway were mainly abstract, inspired by natural elements such as stones, wind and waves, hence the curves, round shapes, fabric erosions or geological glitches (themes that link this collection with the natural elements that inspired Issey Miyake's S/S 18 designs).
These themes were employed to create dresses, skirts and tops characterised by irregular formations, circular shapes, intriguing volumes, sculptural elements and draped and folded motifs.
The model who opened the show in studded sneakers, leather bracelets with silver spikes and a spiky hairstyle with five-inch porcupine quill-like nails protruding from her hair wore a dress made with the off-white and black Iso Noppa pattern designed by Vuokko Eskolin-Nurmesniemi in 1954.
Maija Isola's Kaivo fabric - inspired by the rings forming on the surface of the water in a pail - was turned into a simple toga dress, the selvedge left intact so that you could read the name of the fabric and the brand that made it.
The bold strokes of the Joonas eye-like motif designed by Maija Isola in 1961, formed concentric rings on a dress with an ingenious construction that formed an opening around the belly area.
One design with the Kivet white irregular print on a black background created by Isola in 1956, seemed to have been cut with scissors and arranged on the body of the model in a carefree way: it was maybe a reference to the fact that Isola had created this print (inspired by the rough edged stones from the site of her studio home) by cutting out rounds of coloured paper with scissors. The collection also featured the reverse of this print, the Isot Kivet motif, with a white background and black circles.
The regular pattern of the Tiiliskivi grid print designed by Armi Ratia, proved instead that a motif regularly used for tablecloths, curtains or duvet covers, can be employed for minimalist designs with an architectural twist about them.
Then came Maija Louekari’s whimsical Lintukoto print of black and white flora and plants, with splashes of lilac, red and pale yellow.
It was employed for coats, a skirt with a round edge matched with a leather jacket (all biker jackets in the collections were made in partnership with Schott) and a functional outdoor sporty piece.
The print was also successfully paired with simple (yet rewoked by shifting their silhouette or knotting the fabric into side braids...) striped mariner's tops, a reference maybe to the fact that designer Annika Rimala had created in 1968 her Tasaraita striped motif to hint at a precise message - equal stripes for equal rights.
The fruits of a gardener's labour appeared on a top with the Puutarhurin Parhaat print, a Maija Louekari design, matched with a pure white skirt, and on a tunic worn by a punk girl in black leather boots, the material of her footwear contrasting with the delicate and domestic print that called to mind tea towels and kitchen curtains.
Green camouflage-printed ponchos, leggings and skirts provided a variation from the Marimekko fabrics: Watanabe also morphed the military pattern into an abstract motif, broke it into irregular geometries and then abandoned it to return to polkadot fabrics.
The latter formed origami-like decorations on dresses, while plain white dot on blue backgrounds textiles (though they may have been upcycled ties rather than fabrics...) were used to create cage-like structures on one mini-dress. Towards the end the silhouette became more polished and elegant, maybe borrowed from Haute Couture.
There was punk and romance in the collection, rebellion and elegance, the black Gothic moods favoured by "Death Note" fans combined with the calmness of blissfull domesticity.
By turning Marimekko's heavyweight cotton fabrics more known for their interior design connections (even though the company has been making clothes for decades) into dresses Watanabe committed a punkish act: Marimekko was indeed founded by a woman - Finnish entrepreneur Armi Ratia - in 1951, in Helsinki, a place far away fom the better known fashion capitals.
The most surprising thing about the collection was the fact that these fabrics were created in the 1950s and 60s, and they still feel fresh and fun, especially when they were used to create subtle reinventions at pattern-cutting level (in one of the last looks the fabric seemed to pour out of a hole in a garment in a very poetical way).
Time to encourage maybe more of such partnerships with fabric design companies and fashion designers that prove that creating timeless designs fit for all ages is definitely possible. As Armi Ratia stated in 1963, "I really don't sell clothes. I sell a way of living. They are designs, not fashions. I sell an idea rather than dresses". That's maybe what modern fashion should be aiming for.