Yohji Yamamoto at the V&A

From 12th March to 10th July, the V&A presents the first UK solo exhibition around the work of Yohji Yamamoto, covering 30 years of the Poet of Black’s career, since his Paris debut.

Some of Yamamoto’s designs are exhibited on mannequins in hidden corners of the museum, among the treasures of the V&A, creating a dialogue between his work and the different spaces they are displayed in. This idea is not completely new, rather a sort of continuation of the Triptych exhibition back in 2005/2006. Yohji Yamamoto’s work was at the time presented respectively at the Galleria d’Arte Moderno  of Palazzo Pitti in Florence, the Musee de la Mode et du Textile in Paris and the MoMu in Brussels, exploring the process of inspiration and highlighting the link between surroundings, places and creation.

The V&A makes a difference though, by having a central core where over 60 garments both from womenswear and menswear collections are on display, as well as excerpts from Yamamoto’s fashion shows, films – mostly by Takeshi Kitano, performances, but also graphic material and photographs contextualising his career.

All along his career, Yohji Yamamoto cultivated great collaborations, and has been known for allowing his collaborators almost total creative freedom. Yamamoto’s catalogues are among the wonderful results of these collaborations. Going way beyond simple look books, they are genuine pieces of art, featuring incredibly innovative pictures but also appealing to our sense of touch. Leading names of the industry participated in these catalogues, from the very the first one in 1985, notably Marc Ascoli, Nick Knight, Peter Saville, Paolo Roversi, M/M (Paris), Max Vadukul, Craig McDean, Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. Now quite rare, the items presented at the exhibition are high-quality facsimiles, so they can be touched and experienced, not only looked at.

Yohji Yamamoto’s unconventional designs, with their asymmetric cuts and deconstructed shapes in black or white, have completely changed the face of fashion in the eighties, where body-conscious garments and fluorescent colours ruled. He also explored – and mastered – the art of subverting gender stereotypes, and even actually had female models presenting the A/W menswear collection in 1998.

There is so much to be said about Yohji Yamamoto, as a designer, an artist, but also about the man himself, and his work, not only because it represents such an important landmark in the history of fashion, but also for everything behind it, from his sources of inspiration to his collaborations. In short, whether you are a fan from the outset or want to treat your eyes to breathtaking fashion, the essence of style, or even if you are just curious to discover the work of this visionary artist, the exhibition at the V&A is a must.

Laurie Guillem

Yohji Yamamoto at the Victoria and Albert Museum, 12th March-10th July 2011. For further information on the exhibition and related events: http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/fashion/yohji-yamamoto/index.html

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