Yohji Yamamoto, inside his dark poetry
Updated: Apr 29
"If you want to create something, you need to keep resisting the mediocrity. Inspirations need to be experienced in person, not through the internet. You need to go see it, touch it and smell it, to feel the real emotions that are being conveyed through the design." with a lit cigarette in hand, Yohji Yamamoto shares his advice to young designers with BoF's Imran Amed.
Yohji Yamamoto was born as an only child during WWII. Growing up, he had no idea what his father looked like as he was killed in the war when Yamamoto was only an infant. As a war widow, Yamamoto's mother decided not to get married again, instead, she went to study sewing and cutting then opened up her own tailor shop.
"Just mother and son, it wasn't family. I loved my mother as much as I hated her, but that surely gives me a different perspective to look at this world, through a woman's eyes.", Yamamoto said in another interview. Inevitably, not having a normal family, along with his exposure to post-war grief and despair set the rebellious sensibility in young Yamamoto's heart, but this later in life has also become his signature, unconventional aesthetic.
Yamamoto's mother was the person that guided him to the fashion world, started off by letting him help at her dress shop. She was also his muse of how a single woman can still be strong and independent in a tough world. When working in his mother's dressmaking shop, Yamamoto was bored by the feminine designs requested by their customers. It felt like the cheerful, floral European style was brought in as anesthesia to the post-war trauma. "We had a telephone stand in front of our house. And every day you can see this prostitute wearing sexy clothes and high-heels, calling people and saying that she felt lonely. From that moment, I hate high-heels. Women trust high-heels makes me shaky.", recalled by Yamamoto in his interview.
Dressing women in an all-black, 'nomad' fashion really made Yamamoto stand out in the couture era. Black in his sense, acts as an armor and guards women from unwelcome eyes. Not using sentimental color also ensured Yamamoto to solely focus on the cutting, layers, and the silhouette of the garment. His work is sculpture-like, mostly featured by the monochromic fabric being torn, draped, or repositioned - well-proportioned to a perfect extent.
Yohji Yamamoto doesn't classify himself as mainstream but he does care about how 'wearable' his clothes are. In 2003, the designer collaborated with Adidas and started his revolution in sportswear and street fashion. The debut brought a broader consumer base for Yamamoto and proved his potential in designing sneakers.
Yohji Yamamoto is no doubt the avant-garde in changing the perception of femininity in the fashion industry. “For me, a woman who is absorbed in her work, who does not care about gaining one’s favor, strong yet subtle at the same time, is essentially more seductive. The more she hides and abandons her femininity, the more it emerges from the very heart of her existence.” Yamamoto states in his autobiography — My Dear Bomb.
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