Challenging Tradition

Yohji Yamato Idiosyncratic and groundbreaking designer Yohji Yamamoto is exhibiting his work, made by Kyoto craftspeople, at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London until 10 July

Yohji Yamato Fabric, Yamamoto once said, “is everything.” This deep interest in textiles is at the heart of his approach to design. Yamamoto became internationally renowned in the early 1980s for challenging traditional notions of fashion by designing garments that seemed oversized, unfinished, played with ideas of gender or fabrics not normally used in fashionable attire such as felt or neoprene.

Other works revealed Yamamoto’s unusual pattern cutting, knowledge of fashion history and sense of humour. His work is characterized by a frequent and skilful use of black, a color he describes as “modest and arrogant at the same time”.

This retrospective, experienced through a series of site-specific installations throughout the V&A and beyond, includes Yamamoto’s menswear for the first time.

The core of the exhibition, which is conceived as a series of installations throughout the museum, is located in one of the V&A’s temporary exhibition courts. Looking back at a career spanning almost 40 years, this space highlights some of the main features of Yamamoto’s work.

Yohji Yamato Each one of the fabrics used in his collections are made to his specifications by different craftspeople in and around Kyoto. This important aspect of Yamamoto’s design process is key to why all of the garments on show are on open display. Visitors are invited to walk among them and inspect the intricacies of the fabrics up close. Some of the mannequins are arranged in groups that act as subtle pointers to a certain theme in Yamamoto’s work such as layering or androgyny.

The main exhibition space also features a mixedmedia timeline showing a mixture of excerpts from his fashion shows, films and performances, graphic material and select photographs, which help contextualize his wider creative output. Yamamoto has also worked with a number of collaborators in different fields. In particular, his work with famous fashion photographers such as Nick Knight, Paolo Roversi and Craig McDean has resulted in often iconic fashion imagery. Some of the catalogues that feature these images have been reproduced in collaboration with Canon UK Ltd for visitors to look through and see the images, but also appreciate the art direction and graphic design.