Born: Fukushima, Japan, 1961
Born in Fukushima, Junya Watanabe attended Tokyo’s Bunka Fashion Institute. After graduating in 1984, he started an apprenticeship at Comme des Garçons working as a patternmaker. With Rei Kawakubo as his mentor, Watanabe worked his way up the business.
In 1992 he started designing under his own name for the brand, called ‘Junya Watanabe Comme des Garcons’. The following year he showed his collection in Paris.
In 2007, Watanabe started a collaboration with Converse to design a range of the iconic All-Star shoes. Two years later in 2009, his designs were chosen by Michelle Obama. Wearing a blue pattern cardigan she chose the designer for her trip to London.
With his designs keeping to the Comme des Garçons aesthetic, Junya Watanabe is known for his innovative and technologically advanced designs that show an appreciation of avant-garde cutting. Watanabe has been called a ‘techno couture’, but like his mentor, is renowned for keeping to the pure lines and stark shapes.
In 2012, Watanabe collaborated with the Tamiya Corporation to design The Hornet, a remote-control toy car, and released a matching pair of Reebok Pump sneakers called Pump Furys.
During his FW16 menswear line in March 2016, Watanabe introduced a solar-powered jacket/coat. In 2020, he launched a capsule collection in partnership with Brooks Brothers. Additionally, he collaborated with Comme des Garçons and video game designer Yoko Taro to create a cosplay collection.
Currently, Watanabe continues to work for Comme des Garçons, with his atelier situated on the second floor of the brand’s headquarters in Aoyama, Tokyo.
Watanabe’s designs are often described with the term “monozukuri.” He shares a passion with his mentor, Rei Kawakubo, for creating innovative and distinctive clothing. He explores both synthetic and technologically advanced textiles, as seen in his spring/summer 2001 line, while also utilising traditional materials like cotton in his spring/summer 2003 collection. Influences on his work include Pierre Cardin and Issey Miyake.
Known as a “techno couture” designer, Watanabe crafts uniquely structured garments using modern, technical fabrics. However, his 2015 show in Paris faced criticism for cultural appropriation. Unlike his mentor, Rei Kawakubo, Watanabe’s designs are often considered more practical.
Watanabe is notoriously private, rarely making public appearances at the end of his runway shows or giving interviews to the press. He prefers to maintain a low profile and avoids discussing personal matters.
In popular culture, Watanabe is referenced in a song titled “Junya,” performed by American rappers Kanye West and Playboi Carti, featured on West’s 2021 album Donda.
Junya Watanabe Biography