To the casual outsider the Fashion Industry can appear to be a cauldron of creativity with endless innovation and risk taking, as every new season designers have to forget their past successes and milestones and return alone to a blank canvas, to create their next collection, and this cycle repeats itself every 6 months.
Granted there are principles, codes, legends and motifs that inform a designer’s agency, but essentially it’s starting over. Even if you hold only the most casual interest in the world of fashion, it’s hard to deny the fascinating life stories of every person we have chosen to showcase in this Series.
Yohji Yamamoto is a man who understands the power of endurance. The product of a Japanese culture ravaged by war, the progressive designer has built his 50-some year career on perseverance and a refusal to bend to the will of tradition. From his initial struggles as an emerging designer to his incendiary debut on the world stage, all the way through to the near collapse of his company in the wake of the global financial crisis, Yamamoto has overcome every obstacle in his path – and always on his own terms.
Today, his eponymous brand offering both men’s and women’s clothing remains his most commercially successful venture alongside the popular sub-label Y’s and youth line Ground Y to its’ principal lines Pour Homme and Costume D’Homme. In 2018 the brand evolved yet again expanding into a line of perfume. His innovation has led to groundbreaking collaborations and pop culture moments, working alongside household names of fashion, reinventing icons Like Dr Martins whilst dressing icons of entertainment from Tina Turner to Elton John. Most particularly his trailblazing Y-3 range with street-sports giant Adidas, spurned a new wave of cross-genre collaborations paving the way for the now billion dollar athleisure industry.
Raised by his mother, who worked as a dressmaker. Yamamoto found himself identifying more with the women of his life. His compassion for the opposite gender would eventually present itself through the construction of his couture. His collections are built primarily around the comfort and confidence clothing can provide for women, uninterested in presenting them as objects of male desire.
In 2019, Yamamoto returned to Paris with his critically acclaimed Spring Summer collection held in the historic Grand Palais. Though he is still the Patriarch of black in recent years he has introduced a broader palette continuing to work into his repertoire bold colour and loud prints for Summer. The darkened space was defined by the accompanying music, written in part by Yamamoto himself it represented his defiance of destructive forces, by replying with “anti-racism, anti-crazy global warming, anti-genderless fashion”, presenting a concept that clearly defined his vision for men and women as equal and separate.
With signature over sized cuts and tailoring for the men and beautifully-unstructured drapery for the women that formed around the female body, across a line of dresses and outerwear and in later moments presented a more sensual silhouette with hardware and slithers of skin. His final act was an all-white colour palette that moved into bright colours, casting five black models to open and close the show. Whilst the clothes spoke for themselves, his abstract anti-vision may have been lost on critics, but it is more complicated than being just lost in translation. According to Vogue’s Amy Verner:
“Yamamoto has remained relevant precisely because there are so many unknowable aspects to his work, and people respect him immensely without overthinking why or how a collection materialises. Recent seasons have yielded themes that fluctuate between cheeky and profound, as though he is working through how to express himself in his advancing years”.
At a time when the gender neutral movement is afoot, Yamamoto’s presentation is at odds with times, but it less a battle against the cause than it is a means of reconnecting identity through clothing, with the brand as ever determined to forge their own path.
At 75 Yamamoto has always disregarded the idea of retirement and practices fierce dedication to the craft and his team. Certainly, this renegade of fashion will fight off his final chapter.
RENEGADES OF FASHION – NEW 11 PART NETFLIX FEATURE FILM SERIES
Produced & Directed by Paul G Roberts,
Edited by QingqingGuo, Adapted from the original FIB Book ‘Renegades’ written by Charlie O’Brien,
Edited by Jess Bregenhoj,
Narrated by Annalisa Astarita