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Yohji Yamamoto: About the exhibition

Sleeveless white felt dress with large collar, Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 1996-7, Juste des Vêtements exhibition, Musée de la Mode et du Textile, Paris, 2005 © Courtesy of Gael Amzalag

Sleeveless white felt dress with large collar, Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 1996-7, Juste des Vêtements exhibition, Musée de la Mode et du Textile, Paris, 2005 © Courtesy of Gael Amzalag

Yohji Yamamoto became internationally renowned as a fashion designer in the early eighties for challenging traditional notions of fashion by designing garments that seemed oversized, unfinished, played with ideas of gender or fabrics not normally used in fashionable attire such as felt or neoprene. Other works revealed Yamamoto's unusual pattern cutting, knowledge of fashion history and sense of humour. His work is characterised by a frequent and skilful use of black, a colour which he describes as 'modest and arrogant at the same time'.

Central to Yohji Yamamoto’s work are the textiles. ‘Fabric’ he said once ‘is everything’. Each one of the fabrics used in his collections are made to his specifications by different craftspeople in and around Kyoto in Japan.

Over the years Yamamoto has also worked with a number of collaborators in different fields. In particular his work with now famous fashion photographers such as Nick Knight, Paolo Roversi and Craig McDean has resulted in now often iconic fashion imagery.

Yohji Yamamoto installation in Gallery 38

Yohji Yamamoto installation in Gallery 38

Yohji Yamamoto installation in Gallery 38

Yohji Yamamoto installation in Gallery 38

Yellow strapless silk dress and oversized coolie hat covered with draped silk, Yohji Yamamoto, Spring/Summer 1997

Yellow strapless silk dress and oversized coolie hat covered with draped silk, Yohji Yamamoto, Spring/Summer 1997

V&A satellite spaces

Hintze Sculpture Gallery, Room 24

Black suit jacket with back made from lace, white shirt and black trousers

Black suit jacket with back made from lace, white shirt and black trousers; Black suit with white embroidery, Yohji Yamamoto, Spring/Summer 2009

'When I started a men's line in Paris, my message was very simple: let's be outside of this. Let's be far from our suits and ties. Let's be far from businessmen. Let's be vagabonds'.

The menswear silhouette Yohji Yamamoto introduced from the mid 1980s onwards - loose black suit jacket, wide trousers and white T-shirt - became almost a uniform for the well-dressed man in the creative industries.

Paintings Gallery, Room 81

Long off-white sleeveless dress in homage to Pina Bausch, Yohji Yamamoto, Spring/Summer 1992

Long off-white sleeveless dress in homage to Pina Bausch, Yohji Yamamoto, Spring/Summer 1992

'This is my idea for a woman's body. I like the curve of a woman's back. I always watch her silhouette in the streets'.

One of Yamamoto's most inspiring encounters was with German choreographer Pina Bausch. To Yamamoto, Bausch represented the perfect silhouette. Also, both their work allowed space for the viewer and wearer's interpretation. Yamamoto designed a number of collections in homage to Bausch, including this silhouette.

Tapestry Gallery, Room 94

Long red coat with netting, long black gathered dress with front pockets and black mesh top, Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 1995-96

Long red coat with netting, long black gathered dress with front pockets and black mesh top, Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 1995-96

'Fabric is everything. Often I tell my pattern makers, "Just listen to the material. What is it going to say? Just wait. The material will probably teach you something"'.

These three silhouettes, with coats in red carded wool and structured dresses reminiscent of late 19th-century fashions, mirror the frequent appearance of red in the 15th-century Devonshire Hunting Tapestries.

Norfolk House Music, Room 54b

Long white dress with open back and black skirt; Long white dress with high collar, Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 1996-97

Long white dress with open back and black skirt; Long white dress with high collar, Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 1996-97

'I'm searching for a new proportion. What interests me is the 'space' between the person wearing the clothes and the clothes themselves - the airiness, the movement, the silhouette'.

The space between the garment and the body is of great importance to Yamamoto. It allows the wearer to inhabit the garment naturally, without being constricted by its shape. The structure of these two sculptural white felt pieces, determined partly by the material itself, offers such a space.

British Gallery landing, adjacent Room 125

Black jacket with over sized pockets, white shirt and black cropped trousers, Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 2004-05

Black jacket with over sized pockets, white shirt and black cropped trousers, Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 2004-05

'For me, a woman who is absorbed in her work, who does not care about gaining one's favour, 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'.

Yamamoto designs outside gender stereotypes, at times in direct opposition to them. He is particularly known for his white shirts and dark suits, all carefully tailored yet androgynous in shape.

Contemporary Ceramics gallery, Room 141

Purple screen-printed shirt and blue denim with white painted stripe, Yohji Yamamoto, Spring/Summer 2002

Purple screen-printed shirt and blue denim with white painted stripe, Yohji Yamamoto, Spring/Summer 2002

'I wanted people to wear my clothes for at least ten years, so I asked the fabric maker to make a very strong, tough finish. It's very close to designing army clothing'.

A key inspiration for Yohji Yamamoto is military and utility wear because it is designed for a very distinct function and made to last. These three menswear silhouettes also reveal the humour in his menswear creations through the placement of prints and words.

Wapping Project satellites

As part of this exhibition, two further satellite installations are on display across London.

Yohji Making Waves, Wapping Projects, March 2011, photography by Imogen Eveson

Yohji Making Waves, Wapping Projects, March 2011, photography by Imogen Eveson

Yohji Making Waves

12 March -14 July 2011
Wapping Project
Wapping Wall, London E1W 3SG
Wapping

Making up the third element of the series of exhibitions devoted to the work of the iconic Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto in 2011, The Wapping Project will install just one major piece in the cavernous Boiler House of the Wapping Hydraulic Power Station; the celebrated, oversized white silk wedding dress with bamboo crinoline (A/W 1998). The installation seeks to capture by way of metaphor, something of the wit, simplicity and imagination of this extraordinarily influential designer.

Yohji's Women, Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin for Yohji Yamamoto, Spring/Summer 1999, Wapping Bankside, March 2011

Yohji's Women, Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin for Yohji Yamamoto, Spring/Summer 1999, Wapping Bankside, March 2011

Yohji's Women

12 March -14 May 2011
Wapping Project Bankside
65a Hopton St, London SE1 9LR
Southwark

Coinciding with the Yohji Yamamoto retrospective at the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Wapping Project Bankside will show the photographs of seven international photographers who have worked on Yamamoto's legendary catalogues produced between the early 1980s and 2005. Titled Yohji's Women, the exhibition expresses Yamamoto's love of strong women, who do not fit the conventional, magazine archetypes.

Visit www.thewappingproject.com for more information.

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