The Japanese word “monozukuri” literally means “to make things”, and is composed of the words “mono” (thing) and “zukuri” (to make, to make, to manufacture). In Italian we would use the word craftsmanship but it actually has a deeper meaning, which also includes the concept of design and aesthetics.
This term is actually relatively recent, just over 20 years old, and Professor Takahiro Fujimoto of the Manufacturing Management Research Center at the University of Tokyo, describes the term as “the art, science and craft of making things”.
Designer Junya Watanabe often uses the word “monozukuri” to define his work; it’s a matter of Japanese culture where the term turns out to be very specific.
A few days ago the collaboration between Supreme and Junya Watanabe COMME des GARÇONS was presented and we at Collater.al decided to dedicate an in-depth look at one of the most influential contemporary designers.
A mixture of in-depth study, experimentation and art describe Junya Watanabe’s approach, philosophy and work.
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Born in the city of Fukushima in 1961, Watanabe studied and graduated from Bunka Fashion College di Tokyo and in 1984 began his design career as an apprentice patternmaker with Rei Kawakubo at COMME des GARÇONS. His first personal collection was in 1992, always under the Japanese label, and the presentation was held inside the lobby of Ryogoku station in Tokyo. His first women’s fashion show instead dates back to 1993 and was presented with a show in Paris.
His mother had a small bespoke clothing store but in fact that was not, according to him, the spark that drove him to become a designer, that was simply an unconscious first approach to what would become his world.
Junya Watanabe’s work has permanently influenced the way people think about fashion as a whole. Her approach is based on experimenting with and reworking traditional garments – such as shirts, jackets, skirts, etc. – through novel constructions. In a world such as that of modern-day fashion, marked by references to other cultures and different historical moments, Watanabe represents a unicum.
The usual is transformed into the unusual, into something never seen before.
An innovative and different vision that concerns both shapes and materials, which re-imagines everyday garments reforming their character, features and meaning.
One of his first points of reference from the Japanese designer was Pierre Cardin, with his uncompromising shapes and obsession with geometric forms that characterized the French couturier’s work, but he was also greatly influenced by Issey Miyake: “I was attracted to the fact that designers before Miyake, such as Dior and the big names, created fitted clothing. Issey totally subverted that idea. This approach had a strong impact on me. To make me want to create something, the idea of clothing very different from previous designers”.
“It all starts inside my head. I start looking for sequences of ideas that interest me. From there, I turn my ideas into words. I work together with my modelers, trying to put my words into creation and actually see them come to life. Photographs, artists’ work, anything that seems relevant to what I’m talking about, and after looking at all the visual elements, you start creating”.
Ultimately, Junya Watanabe expands the horizons of normality by stitching together tradition, pioneering attitude, anarchic vision and obsessive approach, characteristics that have made him a beacon of our contemporary world.