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London celebrates Yohji Yamamoto



London officially loves Yohji Yamamoto. Thirty years after he presented his first collection in Paris, London is holding a retrospective to celebrate the life and works of the revered, influential Japanese designer at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Saturday sees the opening of the exhibit to the public but FashionUnited got an early view.   It's his first solo exhibit in the UK – with two smaller shows dedicated to his work at the Wapping Project and the Wapping Bankside galleries in South London. And this exhibition will also house pieces from Yamamoto’s menswear collections.

In a fitting tribute to the avant garde, enigmatic designer, the 80 pieces exhibited aren’t positioned in any chronological order but are displayed on mannequins around the museum with no explanatory or guiding notes for visitors.

“[Yamamoto] said to me…that he wanted people to keep wearing his clothes for at least 10 years or more, hence it would not have made sense to try and force his work into a chronology,” said Ligaya Salazar, the exhibition’s curator.

So curated in different installations – the main one in Gallery 38 – and others in surrounding galleries all take on their own narrative.

He’s a designer whose had a turbulent and emotional private life but whose transcended time, trends and rigorous fashion dictates with a starting point that never changes; his love of design and clothes. And the exhibition aims to highlight this. To accompany the designs, the exhibit also features videos of notable shows over the years, content and images.

Designed by his friend and colleague, Maseo Nihei, the exhibition explores his work with traditional Japanese dying techniques , collaborations with the likes of Nick Knight, Pina Bausch, Wim Wenders and also his provoking attempt at challenging traditional concepts of beauty; ill fitting cuts, androgynous styles, unflattering silhouettes. Whilst the menswear pieces are from his 1998 collection, which famously was modelled by women – including a mens suit worn by Vivienne Westwood.

Stand out pieces include a white long floating dress – completely simple – but airy to allow for a varying women’s body shape, three mannequins fitted with red coats in carded wool displayed alongside medieval tapestries, the colour dyed motifs on kimono dresses, and the designers obsession with women’s back, illustrated on a dress with a cut out back and then a black sequinned bag inserted into the fabric.

There are also moments where the designer pays homage to couturiers -  Balenciaga with a black ruffle and silk dress and Dior with houndstooth print.

Beyond the exhibition which runs until 12 July, there are also 2 other celebrations – ‘Yohji’s women, ‘ a display of photographs and ‘Yohji making waves,’ an installation of an oversized silk wedding dress with bamboo crinoline.

This week also saw the opening of a Y-3 (Yamamoto’s collaboration with Adidas) store in Conduit Street, Mayfair. It’s a 2000 sq foot space complete with slate floors, mirrored walls, and sleek metal fittings and carries Y-3’s mens, womens and children’s collections.

Hervia Ltd, the luxury retailer, who worked on the project also own the UK franchise of Vivienne Westwood.

Images: Yohji Yamamoto S/S11
V&A Museum
Yohji Yamamoto