Yohji Yamamoto: Private View

Guests at the opening of Yamamoto's V&A solo exhibition included 'Girl with the dragon tattoo' Noomi Rapace, film director Wim Wenders and fashion guru Suzy Menkes

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Ligaya Salazar, Curator, Yohji Yamamoto


Q/ What makes Yohji Yamamoto important as a designer?  Why should he get a single show at the V&A?


Well Yohji Yamamoto is one of the most important avant-garde designers who arrived on the scene in the 1980’s and he is really important because of the way he works.  He is not a designer per se, he doesn’t like trends, he just likes designing clothes.  It’s really visible in his clothes because he makes them to last, and that is why they are so timeless.  So I guess that it is that timelessness that is really important about his work.


Q/ So this a retrospective that covers all periods of his career, is that how it works?


Yes, yes, I mean it’s not chronological but it does pick at all the different things he has done, so we have things from the 80’s, from the 90’s and the 2000’s.  In addition to the main space which houses about sixty-odd garments, we also have six satellite spaces throughout the permanent collections of the V&A which really allowed me to explore some of the design aspects of his work in more detail and more concisely.



Noomi Rapace, Actor


Q/ Are you a Yamomoto fan?


Of course, yeah, I think he’s extraordinary, fantastic.


Q/ What is it that makes him special?  What does it make you feel as a woman wearing his clothes?


I think they are kind of timeless and I’ve been doing a lot of kung fu and I like martial art, so I feel very flexible and free in his stuff and that’s a really fantastic feeling because many things for women are so stiff you can’t move, but I think he makes things that make me proud in a way.  I think it’s something between female and masculine and I like that.  I feel that is something you can always feel free in and your whole personality can fit in that. 

It’s androgynous.  Yea I like that.



Stephen Bayley, Critic


It’s wonderful, twenty-five years on how in that edge in fashion, Japanese fashion particularly, it’s exciting but it’s almost become has become common-place.  I don’t mean common-place as in ordinary but it’s become absolutely acceptable how Yohji Yamamoto is in the V&A and I think he absolutely should be.  I just think it’s fascinating how somebody like Yamamoto has become absorbed into the mainstream of awareness and brought great benefit to us all, we now no longer have to look like sad sacks!


Q/ What is it about Yohji Yamamoto that makes him special as a designer?


I think it’s so difficult to be a Modernist and a romantic at the same time and that’s what Yohji Yamamoto does.  He looks back to the past, the crinolines, the drapes, that feeling of a woman seen from behind sort of running away....but at the same time he is reaching forward.  The neoprene fabrics, all sorts of things that make it tremendously modern.


Q/ He was viewed as a revolutionary when he first hit the catwalk in the early 1980’s, has he mellowed?


I don’t think that Yohji has changed from how he was at the beginning.  The world, of course, has changed.  Particularly in Japan, the idea of showing all black clothes - he wasn’t the only one but this tremendous revolution in Japan which was perhaps only felt like an aftershock in the rest of the world.  Certainly the whole business of fashion world dressing in black - everything that came out as a kind of alternative in the Eighties. 



Wim Wenders:


Q/ Do you have a special relationship with Yohji Yamamoto which has endured for twenty, twenty-five years.  What was it about his work that caught your imagination?


We met in Paris in the late Eighties, 87, 88, it was definitely his personality, who he is and how he works, how big his heart is and where he gets his inspiration from.  Yohji is not only a designer but he is also a great contemporary artist, somebody with a great respect for women, for history, the history of dressing ; photography, the history of mankind.


Q/ You are wearing Yohji at the moment, do you often wear Yohji and how does it make you feel?  What does it do for you?


This is a secret but I have nothing else, except a few jeans and some other shirts, but basically to go out in the evening I have only Yohji.  I never wear anything else, since I have met him.  Some of the stuff I have now for twenty years and it’s getting better by the years.


Q/ The zips haven’t gone?


Well, some of the zips were replaced!  Some fell off but the things themselves are getting better with time and it’s remarkable how well inside it you feel, how well protected you feel and how well in yourself you feel. 


Q/ Do you have a favourite thing here?  A think that sparks particular memories?


Well I know some of the dresses, but my favourite thing here is not a thing, it’s his mum.  I met his mum twenty-four years ago and I’m not going to tell you how old she is, but it’s wonderful to see her in such great shape, really fantastic. 


Q/ Secret’s out, I believe she is 95 today actually...



Tamsin Blanchard


Q/ What impact do you think he has had on the rest of the fashion industry?


As a designer with a particular vision I think he has had a really strong impact and I think that other designers look at that.  I think it is really inspiring to see that one vision can endure for so long, but at the same time I think it is such an individual, particular vision that nobody can emulate that.  It’s just Yohji.





'It's hard to be a modernist and a romantic at the same time but that is what Yohji Yamamoto has pulled off. He looks back to the past but at the same time he's marching forward.' Suzy Menkes

'This is a secret but I have nothing else. To go out in the evening I only have Yohji and have never worn anything else ever  since I met him.'             Wim Wenders