Yohji Yamamoto

B. 1943

Birthplace: Yokohama, Japan

Awards: Fashion Editors Club Award, 1982, 1991, 1997 Mainichi Grand Prize, 1984

Chevalier de l'Ordre des Art et des Lettres, French Ministry of Culture, 1994

Fashion Group Night of Stars Honoree, 1998 Art e Moda Award, Florence, Italy, 1998

Fashion watchers are always claiming to understand the essence of Yohji Yamamoto's designs. He has been called visionary, avant-garde, antifash-ion, nondirectional, and so on. Many have said he subscribes to the Japanese belief that beauty does not come naturally, but rather is expressed through the manipulation of the colors and textures of clothing. However, Yamamoto believes that glamor, sex appeal, and elegance come from the inside.

Who is this law school graduate turned fashion designer who set Paris on its ear when his new clothing aesthetic first appeared, along with those of his contemporaries, Rei Kawakubo and Issey Miyake, in the early 1980s? He is, everyone agrees, a pioneer who believes that there should be interaction between the wearer and the clothing, between old and new, between spirit and sensibility, between East and West. While taking much of his inspiration from traditional Japanese dress, which has been developed and perfected over centuries, he has admittedly been influenced by haute cou ture and has applied some of the concepts of Coco Chanel and Christian Dior to his work.

Yamamoto, who grew up in post-World War II Japan, has said that having been raised by his mother, a widow who worked as a dressmaker, he learned to look at the world through the eyes of women. Apparently he did not like everything he saw. His mother's customers wanted him to duplicate the latest Paris fashions, but he concentrated on creating designs of his own, mostly in black, the color his mother always wore and the one he continues to use, almost exclusively, today. In 1969 he went to Paris, having won a scholarship to study there, then back to Tokyo in 1972 where he established his own ready-to-wear company. In 1976 he showed his first collection in Tokyo and made his Paris debut in 1981, where he both delighted and dismayed the fashion world.

Yamamoto is known for the use of thick, dark fabrics which are draped, layered, and wrapped, unstructured and asymmetrical, without detail or decoration, producing a kind of alternative glamor that appeals to a diverse audience. His menswear line has also been extremely successful, and his first fragrance, Yohji, manufactured by the House of Jean Patou, was introduced in 1996. With headquarters in both Paris and Tokyo, Yohji Ya-mamoto's complicated, yet wearable, pieces will continue to ignite the imaginations of artists and creators of fine clothing for decades to come. See also: Issey Miyake; Commes de Garcons; Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel; Christian Dior; Jean Patou. Website: http://www.yohjiyamamoto.co.jp


Buxbaum, Gerda, ed. Icons of Fashion: The 20th Century. Munich: Prestel-Verlag, 1999.

Lehnert, Gertrud. A History of Fashion in the 20th Century. Cologne: Konemann

Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, 2000. Martin, Richard, ed. The St. James Fashion Encyclopedia: A Survey of Style from 1945 to the Present. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1996.

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