The Rainmaker spring show opened with the electronic musician and composer Eiko Ishibashi standing in front of a piano inside Kyoto’s Kyocera Museum of Art wearing a navy tunic over a pair of back trousers. Soon after she began playing, the first model emerged from the stairs behind her, wearing a loose jacket and matching trousers in a rich gray tone that felt seconds away from letting its berry undertones overpower it. Underneath, a navy tunic buttoned only half-way down so that the model could put one hand in a right pocket, in the process exposing a leather belt looped onto itself, the excess belt left hanging. The model’s hair was center parted and a single earring dangled from the left ear.
If it seems like that description is perhaps too detailed, it is only because that is the level of attention that Kohichi Watanabe infuses into his garments. The palette was made up primarily of shades of black and navy (a jacket with frog buttons that combined both shades was an absolute standout), as well as green, cream, and red, which layered upon each other to create a sense of depth within the garments that one cannot help but think also reflects the depth of the wearer.
“Layering is inspired by classic Japanese outfits,” Watanabe shared via email. “The layering of different colors was used to express the natural scenery of spring and summer.” Expert layering is one of his signature techniques, rooted in the traditional way of wearing a kimono, though his approach is anything but historical. Consider the look that began with an indigo shirt — only the top button was visible — worn underneath a hooded white cotton trench coat, itself worn under a navy blazer with patch pockets, cinched at the waist with a leather belt. Or the way a cream polo and matching trousers were exalted by one printed jacket tied around the waist, with a red leather belt tied around on top of that, creating a modern take on a traditional obi belt.
The printed fabrics were a collaboration with MILESTONES, itself a collaborative project between the centuries-old Hosoo textile mill (founded in 1688) and the Kyoto University of the Arts, which has been archiving and analyzing over 20,000 kimono and obi designs. Watanabe visited a MILESTONES exhibition and “fell in love at first sight” with the print of a peacock which he remixed. “It had a novel and serene appearance,” Watanabe added. “It was perfect for this season’s image.” A more unexpected collaboration came in the form of a Wrangler “cowboy jacket.” It is based on the label’s “11MJZ” jacket which the designer described as “a masterpiece of clothing.”
Watanabe makes clothes for men and women but on the runway the distinction seems completely irrelevant. Here were people wearing incredibly beautiful clothes, walking with poise, carrying themselves with unparalleled ease, hands tucked just-so into a hidden pocket; a half jacket layered here, a tunic vest layered over matching shirt and trousers there — the fabrics gently flowing around their body as they walked around the Kyocera museum. They evoked a sense of utopia. Even through the computer screen, the way the currant-red trench coat that closed the show gently glided behind the model was enough to take one’s breath away.