Yohji Yamamoto’s first major solo exhibition in London opened at V&A last month. The well advertised show has successfully attracted many fashion lovers from all over the world. The exhibition is an installation based retrospective, showcasing over 80 garments from Yohji’s iconic catwalk pieces, his legendary look books produced in collaboration with celebrated photographers including Nick Knight and Craig McDean and music albums recorded by Yohji. Visitors are also invited to explore the museum following a map in search of Yohji’s garments located in unexpected parts of the building.
Although the main exhibition space is rather packed, one cannot help feeling the power of the garments. The meticulous detailing and his skill of tailoring leave the viewers in awe. As a long time Yohji lover myself, I felt like a child in a toy store…or I hoped to feel in that way. The truth is that there was something lacking from the show – something big, something important, something central to Yohji’s design. Walking through the space full of information, my heart did not beat as fast as when I put my arm into a Yohji jacket or feel the smoothness of the fabric with my fingers. The reason was obvious: they were lifeless – the garments in the museum were frozen in time, left cold, turned into so-called history.
“I want to design time” Yohji once muttered. His clothes hold a particular sense of time – it’s not the future and definitely not the past, not yesterday or today but just NOW. It is a simple yet the most rebellious spirit toward any preconception of fashion itself. When Yohji made a striking debut in 80’s Paris, the media puzzled. Since none of the past references worked, the journalists and buyers were forced to test their own judgments – it was not only what they saw on the catwalk but how they felt at that moment that became the vital issue. Whilst most of the population was busy squeezing themselves into impossibly tight, figure conscious dresses, Yohji presented airy black pieces that floated around the body, creating breath-taking silhouettes. Some laughed, some hated but a few absolutely loved it.
Now most of the fashion population has become an admirer of his designs, restlessly waiting for his next creations. The enigmatic power of black and the way fabric moves with a rebellious sensuality never cease to attract us. There is nothing to add and nothing to subtract. One garment on the body simply does everything. Fashion has to live. It has to move.