Man in Black

What can you say about a designer who has had such an impact on the fashion industry over the years since his debut collection Yohji Yamamoto woman’s wear line in 1981?

Yohji Yamamoto is highly respected by other fashion designers and rock and film stars, art dealers and architects all wear his clothes.

His collections are eagerly awaited and he never disappoints and invariably surprises. Sometimes his work is controversial, like the time at the start of his career, when he presented catwalk models with severely cropped hair wearing weeds. The local press disparagingly dubbed it the “crow look”.

His life started simply enough as a child in Japan after the 2nd. World War. He was raised by his mother, a self-employed seamstress, who worked hard to keep them both, after his father was killed in the war.

He went to a school that was run by French Jesuits and it may have been here that his impressionable young mind observed the tent-like robes of the Jesuit priests, which he later incorporated into his “look”.

Yohji studied law at Keio University in Tokyo and may have dropped-out before going on to do a design degree at the prestigious Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo. Like a lot of young people at his age he was interested in music and played around with guitars. He also took up Karate and drank whisky!

He was still living with his mother when he entered fashion at 26 and worked in the back of his mother’s shop for four years designing women’s clothing.

At the time he thought the look of a woman in man’s clothing was sexy, and fashioned a simple plain monastic look in what became his signature black. Later he explored sexual ambivalence and androgyny and over the years these became his reoccurring themes.

Yohji showed his first collection in Tokyo in 1977 under the name Y’s and in 1981 headed off to Paris with his presentations where he has lived ever since.

As well as launching the Pour Homme collection for men in the Eighties he bucked the trend in women’s fashion for stiletto heels and shoulder pads and offered up a more austere look causing some in the press to accuse him of negativity.

Yohji has never been one to follow preferring to go it alone. He is on all accounts analytical, intelligent and rebelliousness and for all this the Fashion cognoscenti love him.

His deconstructed and asymmetric look with complicated cuts, which he has achieved with great attention to stitching and draping, has turned his garments into wearable sculpture with cult status.

But he has never forgotten the broader market with his slightly less expensive Y’s line and the “Red Label” and included jewellery and accessories into his oeuvre.

He has also collaborated with other designers and the mass-market, such as sporting heavyweights Adidas, with whom he created the successful Y-3 label, a co-branded line of sportswear in 2002.

He has many friends throughout the entertainment world and has designed costumes for film and opera, as well as onstage outfits for his friend Elton John.

In 2008 he launched Peace through Fashion a Yohji Yamamoto Fund to promote better Sino-Japanese relations.

With 120 stores in Japan and flagship stores in Tokyo, Paris, London and New York his label is likely to remain a fashion staple for many years to come.

And, all this from someone whose ambition was to become a nobody!