Hybta Watanabe was born in Fukushima, Japan in 1961. He went on to attend Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo, graduating in 1984.
At this time he began his apprenticeship at Comme des Garcons, the company run by legendary Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo, as a patternmaker. In 1987, he was promoted to chief designer of Tricot knitwear line and then moved on to design for the Comme Des Garcons Homme line.
Starting in 1992, he has worked under his own name as part of Comme des Garcons. He started his own line under the Comme Des Garcons name called ‘Junya Watanabe Comme Des Garcons’ in 1993 and began showing in Paris that same year.
In 1994, Junya Watanable launched his own label. A few days after his own collection, he presented the collection for his friend Rei Kawakubo.
His designs do reflect the principles of his mentor Kawakubo, but he takes a personal approach to his garments. He changes dramatically each season, taking a stab at futuristic designs, like wrapping neon punks or abstract oriental peasant wear, to poetic stark white. He gives his clothes an irregular touch through random tucking and pleating or ruching. Glamour, sound and colour are notably absent from his design shows, and he keeps a vast distance between his models walking on the catwalk, so that the viewers can give full attention to each design as it appears. In 1995, his collection was all boiled wool and black leather with tattoos on the models. In 1997 he put his own stamp on florals, models seemingly cocooned in Japanese style prettiness but their sculptural half-dresses were conventional from the front and cut away at the back to reveal baggy embroidered trousers. Every outfit was crowned with a folded turban-style wig. In 1999, he has given cape sleeves and an uneven hemline to a white Indian cotton multi-layered dress and the model said that suddenly when worn, all the fabric makes sense and it feels much different on a body than when it is seen on a hanger. He is particularly interested in synthetic and technologically advanced textiles and fabrics as found in his spring/summer 2001 line but also uses more traditional materials such as cotton in his spring/summer 2003 collection. Watanabe is often considered to be a ‘techno couture’ designer, creating unusually structured clothes out of modern, technical materials.