Yohji Yamamoto
Fashion Designer

Craftsmanship & Beauty

Written by Stacy Thomas
Images from Style.com and Stylezeitgeist.com


Innovator of avant garde fashion design since the 1980s, Yohji Yamamoto revolutionized the western idea of the female silhouette with his intrepid tailoring and inventive approaches to the art form. Being a master tailor, his designs are centred around craftsmanship and cutting techniques, and have been described as “pure poetry.” He is thought to be a genius. Believing that “the essence of a woman is in her joints,” his work is based on the deconstruction of men’s clothing, and explores the interplay of masculine and feminine that exists within the female body. His clothes are draping, asymmetrical and oversized, and often feature eccentric details like cut-outs and uneven hems, and zips, flaps or pockets in unusual places. The labels on his early designs held the inscription: “There is nothing so boring as a neat and tidy look.” He thinks “perfection is ugly” and symmetry “not sufficiently human.”

Yamamoto started his career with a degree in law in 1966, but then did an about face and continued his studies at the hard edged and prestigious Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo, receiving a degree in 1969. His tailoring roots come to him by blood; his mother was a self-employed seamstress, and after he received his fashion degree at 26 he worked out of the back of her shop until releasing his first collection, under the name Y’s, in 1977. His collections throughout the early eighties were a deviation from what was being done in the west at the time, that being structured, figure-hugging themes such as the power suit. His garments, by contrast, draped the figure, and ignored the standard accentuation points like the breast and the waist.

Being rarely cut close to the body, his garments explore the tangibility of the space between the fabric and the skin, and this idea is an integral aspect of his designs. He is influenced by traditional Japanese clothing like the kimono and the obi, as well as the functionality of industrial uniforms and workwear. His designs adhere to the classical Japanese design philosophy which values the asymmetry found in nature.

He works almost exclusively in black. “Black is lazy and easy—but mysterious,” he has said. “It means that many things go together, yet it takes different aspects in many fabrics. You need black to have a silhouette. Black can swallow light, or make things look sharp. But above all black says this: ‘I don’t bother you—don’t bother me!’”

Today his designs adhere closer to the craftsmanship of haute couture, but still straddle the line of fashion and art. He is still questioning the role of femininity in clothing and creating new silhouettes. “I am searching for beauty and trying to touch history with clothes. I believe strongly in what I am doing because I am sincere in my fascination with women’s beauty.


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