“Black is modest and arrogant at the same time. Black is lazy and easy – but mysterious. Black says this: “I don’t bother you – don’t bother me” – Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto walks his own path. Dressed in black.
He is always dressed in black, oversized clothes and his face is always shadowed by a hat. Yohji Yamamoto started gaining recognition for his design work back in the early eighties. Being a part of the Japanese deconstruction movement, his work was both rebellious, modern and traditionally Japanese.
Born in Tokyo in 1943, he studied law – and got a law degree – but went on to assist his mother in her dressmaking business. He later studied fashion at Bunka Fashion College and earned a degree in fashion design in 1969.
Black is modest and arrogant at the same time. Black is lazy and easy – but mysterious. But above all black says this: “I don’t bother you – don’t bother me”.Yohji Yamamoto
Yohji Yamamoto is known for his avantgarde approach to fashion, he seems oblivious to current trends, and has developed his own, very personal expression. Most of his work is in black and he has said on the topic; “black is modest and arrogant at the same time. Black is lazy and easy – but mysterious. But above all black says this: “I don’t bother you – don’t bother me”.”
His designs often feature some draped, asymmetrical element. Dark, draped sculptures merged with a very wearable, sporty aesthetic. In his early days Yamamoto worked with Rei Kawakubo. Kawakubo and Yamamoto pioneered the idea of deconstructed fashions. It meant, in short, to take clothes apart and put them back together again in a new way, a revolutionary aesthetic that shocked the world. The clothing appeared to be unfinished, tattered, and haphazardly put together. This, at a time in fashion, when women wore high heels, short skirts and plunging necklines.
My men’s clothes look as good on women as my women’s clothing.Yohji Yamamoto
That gender ambiguity is another significant part of Yamamoto´s work; the apparent void of Western-style gender markers. “I think that my men’s clothes look as good on women as my women’s clothing … When I started designing, I wanted to make men’s clothes for women”, he has stated. He has also at a number of times cast female models for his menswear fashion shows.
Even though Yohji Yamamoto has had tremendous success within the fashion industry, his company has suffered its ups and downs due to poor financial management. In 2009 it was pushed to the brink of bankruptcy. The brand went through company restructuring as a result and managed to pull out of mountains of debt.
Yamamoto himself has said that his love for creating clothes is so strong that he can never see himself retiring. There seems to be an everlasting abundance of creativity in his work. Under the Yohji Yamamoto umbrella there are many different brands and collections such as +Noir, Y´s, Ground Y, Discord, web-only S´yte, as well as Yohji´s daughter Limi Yamamoto´s brand Limi feu. But even though Yohji Yamamoto´s work has developed and changed over the years, a few key elements remains intact; the ambiguities of gender, the importance of black, and the aesthetics of deconstruction.