Liberation may have been portending the career of Yohji Yamamoto and his ilk when it declared “French fashion has found its masters: the Japanese. ” Of the couturiers that emerged out of Japan, Yohji Yamamoto has been the most influential and referenced designer out of them all. With a career spanning more than three decades and several lines, Yamamoto has created a signature look with the use of black and conceptualist ideals.
Much like contemporary artists Marcel Duchamp and Donald Judd, Yamamoto and his peers sought inspiration from the real world and represented this engagement with everyday life through their designs. Further, they advanced a movement in ready-to-wear that rejected the bizarreness and extravagance of big-name designers. He helped redefine clothing by ridding garments of their glamorous externalities and, rather, imbuing them with an asymmetry and abstraction.
To this end, he stripped clothes of their affectations and reduced them to their essentials, creating a new code of modesty that counters the reverence and worship of the body that modern society promotes. When designing, Yamamoto thinks of the person wearing the garment and considers their feelings as well as the lives they lead. With this emphasis on the person wearing the clothes, Yamamoto has created a dedicated following and inspired a new generation of designers.
Yohji Yamamoto was born 1943 in Tokyo to a widowed mother who worked 16 hour days as a dressmaker. She became his first “women in black” and helped solidify her son’s passion for design. Yohji worked in his mother’s shop until she sent him off to college to study and become a lawyer. The subject did not interest him much and it wasn’t long before Yohji went back to work in his mother’s shop.
As a condition of working in her store, however, Yohji had to attend classes at the Bunka School of Fashion in Tokyo. He excelled so much in his studies and technique that he won a design competition offering a trip to Paris as the first prize. Yamamoto started his namesake company in 1972 as “Y’s Company Ltd. ” in Tokyo. He started showing his collections in his hometown of Tokyo in 1977 and, ultimately, gained enough recognition and appraisal to show on the catwalks of Paris in 1981.