It is not difficult to recognize Yohji Yamamoto’s style: black, simple and harmonious. Anything else is superfluous.
Yohji Yamamoto is a landmark of the fashion world. Graduated from Tokyo’s Bunka Fashion College in 1969, he has become the most celebrated and globally recognized Japanese talent.
In Japan, girls wore the traditional kimono until the end of World War II. Twenty years later, some young Japanese, born during the conflict, began to reinterpret Japanese fashion, bringing it into the modern world.
Debuting in Paris in 1981 and later in New York in 1983, Yohji Yamamoto was the first fashion designer to idealize unisex clothing. Yamamoto constantly explores the connection between the feminine and masculine, and creates clothes for women with an intellectual or artistic bend. However, his elegant and sensual designs remain focused on the everyday person.
With triumphs in New York in early 1983, Yohji Yamamoto’s collections gained wide popularity in Tokyo, Antwerp and New York, both in his own shops and in large department stores. The success of his designs in mainstream clothing stores is evidence of a clear change in what was being considered trendy.
His Philosophy and the Bunka Methods.
Nobody can confuse Yohji Yamamoto’s artwork with simple clothing making. Yamamoto’s approach to the fashion world is “cultural”. Nothing in the design and construction of his styles is random or meaningless. His philosophy and avant-garde spirit is manifested frequently in his clothing through designs that depart from current trends. His work is more like a cultural takeaway from old Japanese traditions that has been filtered by the tight rules of the Bunka Method.
Bunka Fashion College has been the incubator for the most important and innovative Japanese designers since the 1970’s.
“Before designing anything, students must understand the human body shape and how human bodies move”, explains Professor Sanae Kosugi, dean of Bunka Fashion Graduate University and president of Bunka Fashion College.
A former classmate of Yohji Yamamoto and the teacher of Junya Watanabe, Kosugi has been with the school for thirty-five years. “Every student, whether they’re studying design or merchandising, has to study this first. To know the body well is very important”.
Through the constant application of the Bunka method, Yohji Yamamoto’s work is supported by a strong capacity to define the limits of the body; and the body is the environment in which fashion is used to express human desires.
With Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto revolutionized the fashion scene overnight with an intellectual, conceptual approach to fashion, which included the occasional third sleeve on a jacket, an abundance of voluminous asymmetry and an overwhelming predilection for black.
Yamamoto has also collaborated with many notable names. In 2002, he successfully partnered with Adidas, launching the famous Y-3 label. He teamed up with Mikimoto to create a line of ethereal pearl jewelry, and he has also worked with Hermès on purse designs. In addition to this, Yamamoto has dabbled in opera and film costuming. He designed costumes for Elton John’s Red Piano Rock Opera as well as Takeshi Kitano’s Dolls, Brothers and Zatoichi. Other famous clients include Tina Turner, Placebo, Heiner Müller and Pina Bausch.
International role and recognitions.
The importance of Yohji Yamamoto in the culture of fashion can be seen in the many prestigious awards he has received for his contributions to the industry. He has won the Japanese Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon, the Commander of Order des Arts des Lettres, the Order national du Mérite, The Master of Design Award, and the Royal Designer for Industry Award.
In 2008, the Yohji Yamamoto Fund for Peace was created to foster the development of fashion industry in China and to help mend the enmity between Japan and China. Every year, an up-and-coming Chinese fashion designer is awarded a two-year scholarship to a fashion college in Europe or Japan. In addition, one female and one male Chinese model are chosen to make a catwalk debut during the Paris ready-to-wear shows.
Through his own personal work and his contributions to the revolutionizing of Japan’s fashion industry, Yohji Yamamoto is one of the most prominent players in today’s world of fashion.