You’ll have to forgive me if I start burbling ever so slightly in the course of this post, I’m not writing it as a commentator. I’m writing as a star-struck fan of the genius that is Yohji Yamamoto. . .
All the big designers have their devoted fans, of course. But without wanting to get all sociological on you, the type of fan a designer attracts is usually predictable. I mean, if someone tells you their favourite designer is Chanel, you’re much more likely to say “yep, thought so,” than “really? that’s a surprise.” Aren’t you?
That’s one of the amazing things about Yohji. He’s one of the very few designers – if not the only one – who attracts admirers right across the board, from rebellious 19yearold art students to Parisian millionaire grandes dames.
(He’s also living proof that a man can still look ubercool at the ripe old age of 70, but that’s another story.)
What’s his secret? The core of it, I think, is his unfailing, fearless originality. He’s been producing clothes since 1981 and in all that time he has simply never followed the herd.
This hasn’t always done him many favours. He’s known financial troubles, his popularity has waxed and waned over the years and fashion critics have sometimes caviled at his single-minded (or should that be bloody minded) determination to do his own thing. “It’s just Yohji doing Yohji,” as one respected writer said recently.
Yet, for me, his clothes always look exactly right for the moment.
Then there’s his sense of humour. Who else but Yohji would do what he did a couple of years ago and enter into a partnership with Doctor Martens, the makers of a heavy industrial work boot that is widely worn by punks, skinheads and millions of construction workers? But he did it, and the results were naturally sensational.
A distinctive Yohji look can often be detected, characterised by big, oversized silhouettes and fabric that billows around the sleeves and waistband but is often tightly gathered at the ankles and cuffs. Needless to say, it’s all underpinned by exquisite, high-quality tailoring.
But above all, I think the key to his uniqueness is that this isn’t strictly fashion; witty, dramatic, sometimes even theatrical, it’s art. True, it sometimes takes courage and attitude to don one of his creations. But when you do, you can feel Yohji’s magic working just for you.