Last Sunday it was sweltering hot in London but all of the sunshine, ice creams and all of the parks in the whole world could not have kept me away from seeing Yohji Yamamoto speak at the V&A. Fashion for Show designer (and wonderfully amazing friend who had to leave to go back to Sweden for the summer) Lisette, kindly passed on her ticket to me... This is almost like giving someone one of your great grandmothers antique gold bracelets or something and I will forever be thankful!
My first sight of the designer was not actually during the talk but while I was standing in the gift shop thumbing through his book from his exhibition which is currently on there. The air went sort of still and the world went quiet and I looked up and there he was, like a serene deer or something, gliding through the shop. I probably even drooled a little but I smiled at him, a smile I hope looked like one of demure respect, but knowing me looked a bit more like bug eyed awe... Must sort this out....
I made my way to the theatre to meet Sara, Pauline, Tim and Magdalena and the talk began. If it wouldn't take me 33 years to type I would recite the entire interview to you all as Yohji Yamamoto is one of the most interesting people I have ever heard speak. Instead, I will give you his best and most poignant quotes from the day.
Yohji Yamamoto on fashion: I hate fashion. I am not a fashion designer; I am a dress maker. Fashion design is based on trends and trends are like the air we breath, we influence it and are polluted by it. It shouldn't be about "what's next what's next what's next"
When I was in Japan, I never really felt Japanese. I did not actually even notice that that was what I was until I arrived in paris and people called me Japanese.
I LOVE WOMEN. She is always coming through and then away from me and I am shouting after her "Don't Go!" I am always in the pursuit of her.
On his simplistic use of colour or the absence of colour in his work: I concentrate so hard on the pattern and the fabric and the silhouette that I forget to put colour on it! Colour is like the light. I don't like refined colours, they should be primary.
On what is sexy: I see so many women with everything on show. There is nothing sexy about this, as they are just a body - please hide it! I can be sitting at a cafe and a man or a woman could walk by in something baggy and swaying, something that makes a house of the body, and that is sexy because all I am thinking about is what happening underneath.... (huge grin on his face!)
On the Life button: Button placement is extremely important. Take for example this jacket (he stands and undoes all of the buttons on his jacket) Which is the most important button? I would say it is this one (he does it up) see, now I look put together. Say I change it to this one (he undoes the button and chooses one button down and does it up. ) See? Now I look lazy! (he slumps and puts his hands in his pockets) I call this the LIFE BUTTON. (This was amazing as the difference in such a small thing as a button affected the whole way he projected himself!)
On failure: Failure is important to the design process. It gives you a strong push for the next show. It is terrible if you are perfectly happy with what you've done. You should come back to yourself for a long time after a show and reflect on what you could have done better.
On what he will do next: I have many things coming up in the near future but most of it is a secret for now! But perhaps in one year I will be a painter and in two years I will make a film and in three years I will have a life as a secret rock star in Paris - maybe a bit like Bob Dylan who I always ask to model in my shows and he never gets back to me...
Turn your volume up to the max for this video as it is QUIET!!! This is Yamamoto describing how he feels a certain responsibility for the state of the fashion industry. He says that maybe if he were a better designer and had more influence, things would not be so fast and trend driven as they are.
The weight of the fashion world is a bit is a heavy burden to carry Mr Yamamoto! You should instead be very proud of the powerful influence you hold over the industry - it is like a slow moving tidal wave (not unlike yourself). I think fashion can change - and you sir, are a catalyst to that change. I just can't wait to see it happen!
Quote photos and last photo taken from the book about the exhibition available at the V&A. Photo of Yohji Yamamoto by Sara of Less is Bore, other two photo's by Paolo Roversi.