The style, beauty and innovation of the great Japanese fashion design came to London for a brief flash of inspiration to aspiring fashion students in spring and early summer 2011. The Yohji Yamamoto exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum documents his rapid rise and encapsulates the central aspects of his work – avant-garde tailoring, the Kyo-yuzen and Shibori dyeing technique, fabulous knitwear and embroidery, and an accute understanding of fabrics and textiles.
Yamamoto’s career as the internationally renowned fashion designer that he is today took shape during the eighties following his debut in Paris in 1981. From then on his creative input in both fashion design and culture has been prolific and very well received by industry press and fashion lovers alike.
Matching the path of his designs, the exhibition was modest and wide reaching, taking visitors from the opening excitement about Yohji Yamamoto’s arrival on the fashion scene, right the way up to his most recent masterpieces. As well as a large number of iconic designs, it also contains a number of video archives of his most recognised shows, flip books of stills of his work and a timeline of his career.
The best part of the exhibition was, not surprisingly, getting to see Yohji Yamamoto’s clothing genius, design skill and vibrant colour combinations up close. The attention to detail is impressive on all of the catwalk designs on display at the exhibition, but the beige and paisley padded hooded bolero jacket with fake fur trim and long padded skirt is one the most iconic from the selection.
Showing Yohji Yamamoto’s love of fabric, breakaway avant-garde style, intricate detailing and simple cuts, the exhibition was an excellent retrospective on the work of the fashion designer. His over-sized embellishments are a lot of fun to see too, including a houndstooth check jacket with puffed sleeves, an enveloping black ruffled cape and an giant scarf wrap over a long integrated blue and black tartan shirt, which has shades of Vivienne Westwood.
It was a good opportunity to see the new direction that he brought to fashion, challenging traditional concepts by incorporating the larger than life look of many of his garments. This was added to by his ability to play with gender roles, the nature of completed work and unconventional fabrics like felt and neoprene, which made his designs stand out so much in and amongst so much production.
Yohji Yamamoto exhibition review: 3.7/5
The Yohji Yamamoto exhibition was £8 for a standard ticket with a £1 donation to the Victoria and Albert Museum and it ran through until 10th July 2011.
Photography: Nick Knight Art Direction Peter Saville