IN CONVERSATION WITH YOHJI YAMAMOTO

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Yohji Yamamoto is an award winning and influential Japanese fashion designer based in Tokyo and Paris. He is considered to be a master tailor, alongside those such as Madeleine Vionnet and is known for his avant-garde tailoring featuring Japanese design aesthetics.

His more prestigious awards for his contributions to fashion include Commandeur of Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon, the Ordre National du Mérite, the Royal Designer for Industry and the Master of Design Award by Fashion Group International.


Yohji Yamamoto

Born in Tokyo, Yamamoto graduated from Keio University with a degree in law in 1966. His further studies in fashion design at Bunka Fashion College led to a degree in 1969.

In the following video clips, the revolutionary fashion designer reflects on his thirty year career in fashion and provides a laconic, engaging and sometimes passionate commentary on his career and design values. He considers how his work has evolved since his Paris debut and explains why he designs so differently for men and women, and also provides a withering personal analysis of the current state of the fashion industry.



Yamamoto debuted in Paris in 1981. In an interview with the New York Times in 1983, Yamamoto said of his designs, “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.” More recently he has expounded: “When I started making clothes for my line Y’s in 1977, all I wanted was for women to wear men’s clothes. I jumped on the idea of designing coats for women. It meant something to me — the idea of a coat guarding and hiding a woman’s body. I wanted to protect the woman’s body from something — maybe from men’s eyes or a cold wind.”

His commercially successful main line, Yohji Yamamoto (women/men) and Y’s, are especially popular in Tokyo. These two lines are also available at his flagship stores in New York, Paris, and Antwerp, and at high-end department stores worldwide. Other principal lines include Pour Homme, Costume d’Homme, and the diffusion line Coming Soon. Yohji Yamamoto Inc. reported in 2007 that the sales of Yamamoto’s two main lines average above $100 million annually.



Yamamoto is known for an avant-garde spirit in his clothing, frequently creating designs far removed from current trends. His signature oversized silhouettes in black often feature drapery in varying textures.



Yamamoto’s work has also become familiar to consumers through his collaborations with other fashion brands, including Adidas (Y-3), Hermès, Mikimoto and Mandarina Duck; and with artists of different genres, such as Tina Turner, Sir Elton John, Placebo, Takeshi Kitano, Pina Bausch and Heiner Müller.

Yohji Yamamoto was invited to curate the second issue of A Magazine curated by in 2005, following Martin Margiela.



Poor decisions by finance managers pushed the brand into debts of more than 65 million US dollars in 2009, which angered Yamamoto and led to a company restructuring from 2009 to 2010. The private equity firm Integral Corp was identified as the Japanese company who will restructure the Yohji Yamamoto Inc. and by November 2010 the company was out of debt and avoiding the risk of bankruptcy.



Yamamoto’s daughter, Limi Yamamoto, has followed in his footsteps. She debuted as a fashion designer at the Tokyo Fashion Week in 2000, showed in Tokyo from 2000 to 2007, and debuted to critical acclaim in Paris in 2007. Its brand name is LIMI feu.



In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Yamamoto was involved in a relationship with fellow Japanese avant-garde fashion designer Rei Kawakubo of the Comme des Garçons (French for “Like Boys”) fame.

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