Japanese fashion in the Twentieth Century has been characterized by a fusion of American pop culture and Japan’s economic and industrial boom in the 1960’s. With momentum from its strong consumer technologies market, Japanese designers utilized fiber technologies in their fabric and channeled traditional Japanese art through the eyes of modernism.
The trinity of Japanese fashion Gods – Yohji Yamomoto, Issey Miyake and Comme des GarÃ§ons’ Rei Kawakubo – can be credited with placing Japan on the global fashion map. While these designers each have a unique perspective on fabric construction as well as a shared love for artistic collaboration in their collections, it is Yamomoto who stays loyal to Japanese cloth traditions.
Known for his somber color palette that rarely strays from black, charcoal and navy, the abundant silhouette of his designs paired with a spare, slightly androgynous feel, makes Yamomoto’s work distinct and instantly recognizable.
Born in Tokyo, Yamomoto is a graduate of the prestigious Keio University and Bunka Fashion College, and is the only Japanese fashion designer to have been awarded the French Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres. In 1972 he created his first women’s ready-to-wear Y’s line before making his Tokyo runway debut in 1977. Yamomoto received international acclaim for his 1982 prÃªt a porter collection debut in Paris and for his Yohji Yamamoto line, which he presented the same year.
Strongly influenced by the geometric forms of indigenous garments, exemplified by Japanese Noh costumes, Yamomoto uses sportswear constructions and finishing details in his designs to evoke a postmodern street chic. A vest and skirt look from his 1991 collection is made entirely of hinged wood slats – an obvious homage to the raw visual distinction of planar form. His 1990 kimono-inspired trench coats and shirts reference his Japanese ancestors and his experimentation with technical textiles and new synthetics is indicative of Yamomoto’s rebellious and innovative spirit.
In 600-year old Japanese Noh theatre, costume itself – fabric, color, design – plays a primary role in the characterization of age, gender, social status and emotional state. The embellished silk robes transform the performers body into a mysterious sculptural form. Channeling this traditional concept, Yamomoto sought to create continual movement in both fabric and structure. The result was enigmatic draping and twisting which made the body look a work of art.
It wasn’t until 2002 that Yamomoto debuted his haute couture line and in 2003 opened the Y flagship store. His recent collaboration with Adidas on the Y-3 line has launched Yamomoto into the closets of Western fashionistas. Yamomoto’s success has fostered a global awareness of the Japanese fashion scene and his age-old couture tailoring fused with an eclectic vision has enabled Yamomoto to articulate Japan’s fashion aesthetic to the world.