Designer and artist, Yohji Yamamoto graced our city last week with a retrospective runway show exhibiting historically significant pieces from his own collections’ archives. For a man who has vocalized his dislike of the term “retrospective” and who has positioned himself as a designer in “anti” mode, his self-curated show last Thursday showed us that Yamamoto is also a man unafraid of breaking his own rules. The Johann König Gallery (formerly St. Agnes Church), where the show took place, was an appropriate setting for a designer whose works have simultaneously affirmed and subverted tradition in the spirit of thoughtful rebellion and invention.
Over the span of his career, the designer has been distinguished by his penchant for extreme proportions, a monochromatic palette, oversized silhouettes, and “unfinished” looks usually constructed from unusual fabrics. While plenty of sensational and more conspicuous pieces with his signature markings made their way down the runway, there were many surprising garments that revealed to us just how astute a fashion historian Yamamoto is. It is his understanding of fashion, its history, and traditions that has allowed him to skillfully reference, deconstruct, and lacerate its conventions to reaffirm who he is as a designer. Yamamoto exaggerates and reduces garments in unexpected ways and regardless of what the original reference point was, the results always contain something recognizably Yamamoto.
The highlight of the evening came when a young model dressed in a hoop-skirted bridal ensemble reenacted a historical Yamamoto runway moment from 1999, where the model bride unraveled her own dress to pull out her slippers, veil, gloves, and bouquet from her dress to walk herself down the runway aisle. I got the sense that he was playfully mocking tradition (even his own), yet all the while holding fascination with its romanticism. The audience was thrilled.
There is little left to say and much more to uncover and learn in the images below. Yamamoto has been crafting and creating for longer than I’ve been alive, and as such, last week’s presentation is still just a starting point of discovery.