Eight Facts You Need To Know About Japanese Fashion Designer Yohji Yamamoto

Yohji Yamamoto AW2020 Femme Collection. Image courtesy of Yohji Yamamoto.
Yohji Yamamoto AW2020 Homme Collection. Image courtesy of Yohji Yamamoto.
Yohji Yamamoto. Photo by Shuzo Sato. Image courtesy of Yohji Yamamoto.
View of Yohji Yamamoto flagship store at K11 MUSEA, Hong Kong, the first in Greater China area. Image courtesy of Yohji Yamamoto.
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For over 40 years, Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto has radicalised the global fashion industry with his dark, evocative palettes and androgynous silhouettes. Much of what drives Yamamoto is his deep love and respect for women—a sentiment apparent throughout all of his creations.

TEXT: Carina Fischer
IMAGES: Courtesy of various

Yohji Yamamoto AW2020 Femme Collection. Image courtesy of Yohji Yamamoto.
Yohji Yamamoto AW2020 Homme Collection. Image courtesy of Yohji Yamamoto.

 

One of the most distinguished fashion designers working today, and a known pioneer of the 1980’s Japanese New Wave, Yohji Yamamoto has been overturning Western conventions on both an aesthetic and technical level for the better part of four decades. His clothing is known for their signature oversized silhouettes, avant-garde and free-spirited aura and masterful tailoring. His international debut at the Paris Collection in 1981 was hugely impactful, although misinterpreted by some, who then dubbed the show, with shocking ignorance, as “Hiroshima chic.” The venue was stripped of all sound spare an amplified heartbeat with pale models donning oversized holey black shapes. The unnerving atmosphere in conjunction with Yamamoto’s dark, draped pieces was nothing like what the fashion world had ever seen before.

In an interview with Wall Street Journal, Yamamoto said, “I have never walked the main road in fashion. When I first showed in Paris, my clothes were in such radical contrast to everything else that was out there that my office elevator was broken by the stampede of buyers who came to look and buy post show.”

Since then, aside from Yamamoto’s eponymous brand, the designer has created established collaborations with other fashion brands, including Adidas (Y-3), Hermès, Mikimoto, Mandarina Duck and New Era Cap Company, among others; as well as working with a myriad of iconic artists, including Tina Turner, Elton John, Placebo, Takeshi Kitano, Daniel Barenboim, Pina Bausch and Heiner Mueller. In fact, Yamamoto was one of the first designers to bring forward the notion of collaboration culture, making high fashion accessible to a mass market, while also contributing to the then very American sneaker culture with the Y-3 adidas collaboration, which began in 2003. Yamamoto said in an interview, “I say I hate fashion but in fact I have always been fascinated by the relationship between Japanese ritual and Western couture.”

Yohji Yamamoto. Photo by Shuzo Sato. Image courtesy of Yohji Yamamoto.

 

Here are eight must-know facts about Yohji Yamamoto:

 

Yamamoto almost became a lawyer.
Yamamoto had intended on becoming a lawyer, but decided to help his mother with her dressmaking business. “My mother reacted angrily when I told her. She said: ‘If you really want to help me, you must go to dressmaking school.’ And so I did.” As a result, Yamamoto enrolled at Bunka Fashion College, a prestigious school in Japan which has also, rather famously, trained Kenzo Takada and Junya Watanabe.

 

Yamamoto designed the costumes and jewellery for a film by Takeshi Kitano.
Yamamoto worked with one of Japan’s most renowned filmmakers to design the costumes and jewellery for the film “Brother,” a movie about the yakuza. Kitano’s films document Japanese culture and style, his work exuding a similar free-spirited nature as Yamamoto’s.

 

Yamamoto was romantically involved with Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons.
Whilst Yamamoto is currently an incredibly influential figure to millions, in his journey to become the designer that he is today the designer formed a number of meaningful and charged alliances. Arguably one crucial one was his professional and romantic relationship with fellow Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, a friendship and competitive force which he referred to as, “The start of my Olympic games.”

 

Yamamoto plays both the guitar and harmonica for a group called Suicide City for recreation.
The designer was indeed an impassioned musician. In fact, the soundtrack to his Autumn/Winter 2018 Paris Fashion Week show was written and performed by him. It was in part homage to Azzedine Alaïa, who had passed away less than six months prior. The lyrics Yamamoto wrote were haunting: “Can you think of me? I think of you always. Winter is very cold. Where are you? Where are you?”

 

Yamamoto hates shopping.
For a designer, Yamamoto does not seem too bothered about his own personal attire, nor wearing the latest design or trends. In fact, it would appear to be quite the opposite: “I am very lazy in the way I dress. I have five pairs of exactly the same pants and shirts. I wear them always, but I do change my underwear daily! I have always been envious of women and the way they have so many options.

 

Yamamoto initially wanted to make men’s clothing for women.
When working with his mother, Yamamoto would do fittings for women, and, as he fixed lengths and completed other tasks, would think, “I want to make some kind of mannish outfit for women.” He stated that he “jumped” at the idea of designing coats for women. “It meant something for me—the idea of a coat guarding a home, hiding the woman’s body. Maybe I liked imagining what is inside.”

 

Yamamoto has a very intentional use of colours—especially black.
Yamamoto is known for his black palette. He believed that within cities there was simply an overwhelming amount of colours, “It looks very ugly. I felt I should not make people’s eyes disturbed by using horrible colours.” And Yamamoto believed that the most important thing for dressing “is to look sexy.” He said, “Colour is an issue for me. I use a lot of black and often I forget to use colour. And when I do use it, I have to use something strong—stronger than black even—and so I might use a white or a beautiful, fragile red.”

 

Yamamoto has a fragrance line, inspired by the subtle scents of Japan.
Yamamoto wanted to create fragrances that evoked a scent of Japan, one that he noted was considerably weaker in scent compared to its Western equivalent. His fragrances target women—as he states, “I am not an expert on men’s fragrances because I have never been in love with a man. This makes a big difference!”

 

View of Yohji Yamamoto flagship store at K11 MUSEA, Hong Kong, the first in Greater China area. Image courtesy of Yohji Yamamoto.

 

Shop the designer’s works at the 2000 square-foot flagship Yohji Yamamoto store at K11 MUSEA, Hong Kong. (Shop G7, G/F, K11 MUSEA, Victoria Dockside, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui)

 

 

 
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