Yamamoto, Yohji


Yohji Yamamoto is a fashion designer from Japan who was born in 1943. After graduating from Keio University with a law degree in 1966, he decided to pursue a career in fashion design at Bunka Fashion College. With the Y’s brand, he made his debut in women’s ready-to-wear in 1972. In 1977, he exhibited in Tokyo, and in 1981, he moved to Paris to exhibit. He began the deconstructivist revolution, which would lead to a major upheaval in current fashion, seen with Comme des Garçons‘ Rei Kawakubo. Insiders were taken aback by the collection, which was termed “post-atomic fashion” by the trade press because the clothing, with their ambiguous slashes and enormous gashes, invoked the threat of nuclear war.

He started the influence of eastern aesthetics on European fashion in 1983, again in Paris, with a collection influenced by pauperism. His deconstructivism and sense of impelling precariousness, of destruction and reconstruction, are paired with a typically Japanese fabric study, in which noble fibres and man-made materials define the structural purism of the clothing in an excellent way. These are the aesthetic and design starting points for a new generation of designers who have been reinventing European fashion canons since the mid-eighties. The designer recently declared: “I was born in a bombed-out Tokyo. These are probably my roots, destroyed Tokyo. I have been attracted to the dark side of life since the beginning of my career”.


Yamamoto is the forerunner of a group of Japanese designers who, with their oriental calm, were able to revolutionize decades of European clothing. The main merit of the Japanese designer’s idea is the deconstruction of Western volumes. He now produces four collections under his own name, as well as three collections resulting from collaborations with other businesses. One of them is a partnership with the sportswear company Adidas. He established the well-known Y-3 premium sportswear line with them, which debuted in January 2002 at Pitti Uomo in Florence and is still shown regularly during New York Fashion Week.

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The iconic Adidas Original in collaboration with Yohji Yamamoto

But Yamamoto’s genius has also been instrumental in collaborations with Hermès, Mikimoto and Mandarina Duck. Several elements contribute to the Japanese designer’s unique aesthetic, which has been appreciated worldwide for over twenty years. For example, the avant-garde spirit, the Japanese tradition and attention to the history of Western costume, the large silhouettes and the use of blue and black. Even the director Wim Wenders paid tribute to him in a documentary entitled Notes on Fashion and Travel in 1989, dedicated to the designer’s life and career.

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Despite the designer’s close ties to Paris, the company’s headquarters have always been in Tokyo, at an atelier where his mother, a seamstress and his first teacher, also worked at the start of his career. Limi Feu, Yamamoto’s daughter, opted to follow in her father’s footsteps and was successful enough to walk the catwalk in Paris in 2007.

Yohji Yamamoto Inc. was declared bankrupt by a Tokyo court in October 2009. Integral Corporation took over the company and agreed to refinance and manage the designer’s assets, manufacturing, and distribution. Yohji Yamamoto continues at the head of his brand, and his men’s and women’s collections continue to exhibit in Paris.

Yamamoto Exhibition at Victoria & Albert Museum
Yamamoto Exhibition at Victoria & Albert Museum

In March 2011, the prestigious Victoria & Albert Museum in London dedicated a retrospective to the Japanese designer’s work; also in 2011, to mark a decade of collaboration between Yamomoto and Adidas, the documentary film This is My Dream was made, directed by Theo Stanley, who worked with fashion photographer Bruce Weber and artist Chiara Clemente. The film follows the designer in the two months leading up to the creation of the spring/summer 2010 collection.

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