The Talks featuring Yohji Yamamoto
The Talks have recently compiled a very interesting read by talking together with famed designer Yohji Yamamoto. The Japanese designer gives a rare account for himself with this insightful interview that touches on many topics of conversation from his beginning to his latest autobiography.
Mr. Yamamoto, film director Wim Wenders said that when he bought his first piece of your clothing, he was fascinated because it felt new and old at the same time, and he felt protected by it. Would you say that describes your clothes quite well?
My starting point was wanting to protect a human’s body. This is the beginning, actually hiding women’s bodies. This is about sexuality, about protecting it. From the very beginning of my career I was not very sure that I would become a so-called “fashion designer”. The term “fashion designer” sounded very light.
What do you associate with that term?
When I think about the image of a fashion designer I think about trends. I have to think about what’s new, what’s next, what kind of feeling customers want. It’s too busy for me. So, from the beginning, I wanted to protect the clothes themselves from fashion, and at the same time protect the woman’s body from something – maybe from men’s eyes or a cold wind. I wanted people to keep on wearing my clothes for at least 10 years or more, so I requested the fabric maker to make a very strong, tough finish.
You say you wanted to protect the female body and your clothes often have a playful androgyny in them. Should men and women be able to dress more like each other?
When I started making clothes for my line Y’s in 1977, all I wanted was for women to wear men’s clothes. I jumped on the idea of designing coats for women. It meant something to me – the idea of a coat guarding and hiding a woman’s body. For me, a woman who is absorbed in her work, who does not care about gaining one’s favor, strong yet subtle at the same time, is essentially more seductive. The more she hides and abandons her femininity, the more it emerges from the very heart of her existence. A pair of brilliantly cut cotton trousers can be more beautiful than a gorgeous silk gown.
Over 30 years later, are people still too stuck up when it comes to what they wear?
I simply cannot stand people’s tendency to become conservative. There’s always a move back to established conventions, otherwise upcoming waves would be soon categorized as common sense. Even the term avant-garde – avant-garde is now just a tiny fashion category. It became so cheap and pretentious. I hate it. But still, I strongly believe in the avant-garde spirit: to voice opposition to traditional values. It is not just a youthful sentiment; I live my life by it. Rebellion. You will only be able to oppose something and find something of your own after traveling the long road of tradition.
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