02.08.2015 - Anna von Stackelberg


Yohji Yamamoto



Born in Tokyo in 1943 in the aftermath of WWII, Yohji Yamamoto was the only child of a Japanese war widow struggling as a seamstress to provide for her young son. The direness of survival in post war Tokyo along with the absence of his father set the stage for Yamamoto’s development as a designer and are valued by him as the driving force behind his desire to create and also his desire to redefine female beauty. In interviews he often refers to his early childhood: “When I was three years old, four years old, I knew already that life must be very tough. I had to fight. I had to protect my mother." And thus, after completing a degree in law, Yohji opted to work for his mother in her small dressmaking shop while enrolling in Bunka Fashion College.


Throughout the time at his mother’s shop Yamamoto was confronted with notions of beauty that seemed unnatural and oppressive to him. Local women would order dresses based on European magazine cuttings, requesting styles he found not right for their proportion and mimicking imposed ideas of doll-like beauty. He realized that he would at all costs try to avoid this kind of dressmaking. Instead Yamamoto dreamed of emancipating women, helping them to reclaim their sexuality through clothing that would guard and hide their bodies and in this way allow for their individual being, their individual femininity to emerge. 


When he started making clothes for his own line Y’s in 1977, Yamamoto aimed at dressing women in men’s clothing, focusing specifically on the idea of designing coats for women. This garment seemed to encapsulate perfectly his aesthetic goal to enclose and conceal natural forms and in so doing open up personality and individuality. “For me, a woman who is absorbed in her work, who does not care about gaining one’s favor, strong yet subtle at the same time, is essentially more seductive. The more she hides and abandons her femininity, the more it emerges from the very heart of her existence. A pair of brilliantly cut cotton trousers can be more beautiful than a gorgeous silk gown.” The resulting first collections were a stark departure from anything that had come before. 


Set in somber shades of black and presenting an assemblage of asymmetrical, loose coats and face-obscuring hats, Yamamoto, together with his then girl friend Rei Kawakuba of Comme des Garçons, debued his collection in Paris in 1981 – showcasing a radical counter-trend to the tight dresses and padded shoulders that were the order of the day. It is hard to imagine the hostility the collection encountered from the fashion world. The press described Yamamoto’s aesthetic as ‘Hiroshima’, ‘Holocaust Chic’ and ‘The Japanese Offensive’ bluntly reflecting the sense of total shock that his revolutionary departure from the status quo sent through the fashion world. Women’s Wear Daily even went as far as running pictures from the collection with a black cross through them, describing it as clothes for the homeless. Yet even though his designs encountered such fierce resistance, his aesthetic paralleled the rise of punk fashions and street style, and with perseverance and dedication to his beliefs Yamamoto presented himself as a powerful new player in the design world with his intellectually playful and paradigm-breaking clothes.


Even though he has frequently criticized any labeling of his work as such and perceives himself as being primarily a dressmaker and rebel, Yamamoto’s debut show introduced his aesthetic, along with the designs of Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo, as a new Japanese take on dress culture. Through his close collaboration with Japanese artisans, it is undeniable that his collections are an homage to Japanese tradition and craftsmanship. Every stitch, and every detail, is made in small traditional local businesses, such as for instance the production of all Yamamoto fabrics at the Kyoto based family-run Chiso factory, which was established in 1555, when it made garments for monks, and has been producing Japan's finest ceremonial kimonos for decades. This dedication to local skills, paired with his passionate attention to cut has propelled Yamamoto to the top of the fashion market. His garments are understated luxury, know and loved by the sophisticated and the design loving. 


Individual and highly complex, Yamamoto has created a wholly new concept of fashion and has widely become regarded as one of the twentieth century’s greatest fashion designers. His clothing is fashion as an object of beauty, freed from the social restraints that link garments with gender, age or sizing. After 43 years in the business, he still manages to confront traditional values, continuously looking for new challenges and ways to make his dreams come true. In his own words: “Fashion sighs after trends. I want timeless elegance. It is more about helping women to suffer less, to attain more freedom and independence.” So looking forward to the next collection, we thank him for his continued spirit and quests at the helm of the fashion avant-garde.


Short Facts


Yamamoto’s signature look is represented by oversized silhouettes in black often featuring drapery in varying textures with only minimal interest in surface decoration or accessories.


Known for his masterful fusion of traditional Japanese dress and Western daywear, Yamamoto’s billowing trousers and jackets pair textured, draped fabrics with crisp button-downs, elongated knits, and t-shirts with arresting graphics. His voluminous garments can be combined to create flowing styles that are offbeat, comfortable, and strangely elegant.

Designer History

1981 - present Yohji Yamamoto

Yohji Yamamoto Backstage


1969 - Graduation

Yohji Yamamoto graduates from Bunka Fashion College, Tokyo

1972 - The Launch

Yamamoto started the first brand Y's

1977 - Tokyo

Yamamoto Presented the first collection in Tokyo

1982 - New York

Presented the first collection in New York

1984 - Menswear

Presented the first men's wear collection in Paris

1984 - Stock Market

Yohji Yamamoto joint stock corporation founded.

1989 - Film

Wim Wenders' film portrait of Yohji Yamamoto " Notebook on Cities and Clothes "

1991 - Collaboration

Presented Yohji Yamamoto (Homme) collection " 6.1THE MEN " with Comme des Garçons

1999 - Costumes

Designed costumes for Takeshi Kitano's film "BROTHER "

2002 - Adidas

Appointed as creative director for Y-3, Sports Style Division of adidas
Presented the first collection of Y's in Paris
Designed costumes for Takeshi Kitano's film " DOLLS "

2003 - Y-3

Y-3 line and collection debut.

2009 - Shop

Opened Yohji Yamamoto Paris Cambon Shop 

2010 - Revival

Presented Yohji Yamamoto (Homme) collection " YOHJI YAMAMOTO THE MEN 4.1 2010 TOKYO " first time after 19 years

2011 - Victoria & Albert Museum

First UK solo exhibition celebrating his life and work at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

2012 - New Line

Yohji Yamamoto is delighted to introduce his new line : REGULATION -Artworks

First public exhibit in Japan of artworks by designer Yohji Yamamoto, at Yohji Yamamoto Aoyama store

2013 - New Release

During 2013-14AW Paris Ready-to-Wear Fashion Week, Yohji Yamamoto's new collection line ’REGUALATION Yohji Yamamoto Men’ was released


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