The V&A is home to Yamamoto’s first major solo UK show. This installation based exhibition is skilfully curated, combining clothing from various collections spanning decades, runway video footage, and photographs showcasing Yamamoto’s designs by fashion photographers such as Nick Knight, Paolo Roversi and Inez Van Lamsweerde.
The exhibition documents Yamamoto’s pioneering ideas that were to shake up the fashion world. His famous comment near the beginning of his career that, “all I wanted was for women to wear men’s clothes” reflects his desire from an early stage for change that would signal a new era for fashion. Indeed, the androgyny of certain collections was extremely significant for Yamamoto, and he emphasised this point in his using of only female models to walk for a male collection. His blurring of gender boundaries allows for collections that continue to intrigue through their exploration of gender as ambiguous or unfixed, and emphasises the fluidity of identity. His garments may often appear formless or unfinished, challenging preconceptions about how clothing should look, in the direct rejection of the form fitting. The diversity of clothes represented in the exhibition bear testament to Yamamoto’s wide ranging and constantly evolving view of fashion.
His sculptural designs showcase both movement and the static. Voluminous swathes of fabric that appear as if caught mid-motion in a gust of wind – as light as air – prove to be rigid and unmoving, allowing the simultaneous visualisation of motion and stillness. In other garments, the delicacy and simplicity of shape is equally astounding. Yamamoto plays with form, always one step ahead of his audience. He consistently inverts expectations, and the inability to pigeonhole him is what continuously makes his collections so fresh. Yamamoto’s designs evolve with an organicity that is quite remarkable, his collections quietly and elegantly forging new ground. Never does he stay in one place too long, or let his ideas grow stale.
Yamamoto’s designs are particularly interesting in that they break down boundaries between art, fashion and architecture. Such classifications become difficult to maintain after viewing Yamamoto’s vast, sculptural wedding gown of 1998, which takes on such exaggerated proportions that the bride becomes swamped, and indeed caught beneath the weight and size of the gown- a powerful yet playful allusion to the excesses of the white wedding in modern culture.
The relatively small space that the exhibition takes up is in no way a representation of limited material. Amongst the clothing, the room is packed with books and video footage that is an excellent insight into a Yamamoto’s life. The tension in his designs between the serious and the mischievous is represented with clarity, but perhaps the most overwhelming sense present is the knowledge that this is not Yamamoto’s last word, that there is much more to come. It is this aspiration to reach higher and farther that marks out Yohji Yamamoto as a truly inspirational pioneer of art and fashion.
The exhibition shows from 12th March- 10th July 2011
For more information about the exhibition, visit:
For behind the scenes footage of the curatorial aspects of the exhibition visit: