Who Decides Inspiration From Africa: Revisiting Junya Watanabe Spring 2016 Menswear

Junya Watanabe, a well-known Japanese designer who works under the auspice of Comme des Garçons, presented his mens’ collection in Paris on June 26. The inspiration of his collection? Africa. 

The casting of models were ‘unblemished’ by black models. Models were shackled with artifacts, however, then lambasted with vibrant prints and patterns–all in attempt to give ode to mother Africa. 

Whether one is satisfied or not about the state of fashion from Africa, nevertheless it remains that Africa is, and will always remain, a source of inspiration for the global fashion industry. Junya Watanabe Spring 2016 Menswear collection is an example of a new form of inspiration that requires interrogation, not only because it displayed no black models, but because inspiration from Africa was relegated (as described by Tim Blanks of Style.com) to accessories—beads, bones, fetish objects— collected from a couple of Parisian stores that specialize in African artifacts.

A study of Junya’s new collection inevitably finds one asking the question: “Who decides inspiration from Africa?” How, for example, can a collection personify Africa with artifacts from Paris? This fragile connection between Africa and the global fashion industry is exemplified further in Now Fashion’s description of the collection as a cross between “preppy and native African culture.” The site goes on to suggest that the collection is “very much like the African man in his traditional outfit looking down onto an apparently preserved landscape.” Nothing about this collection provides any understanding about Africa or even the African man, but the “knee-jerk negativism” Tim Blanks alluded to, as well as the white male models with dreadlock wigs, Masai necklaces, wooden masks, and metal spears, all highlight the need to better understand who decides what inspiration from Africa entails. The need to also rethink the relationship between Africa and the global fashion industry is also now more expedient than ever. So we ask, “Who decides inspiration from Africa?” Please leave us your thoughts and opinions below.

“A” Team –  Adiree

African Fashion Discussion Junya Watanabes Africa Themed Fashion Show

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