Yohji Yamamoto's fusion of high fashion with sportswear is so successful it's spun out its own lucrative collaborative line, Y-3. That of course shows on the New York fashion week schedule, but the sporty mood infected his Autumn/Winter 2012 mainline too, taking the drama down a notch in this always poetic and occasionally downright dark and foreboding show.
The first sense of sport came with the colour - tons of colour. A saturated scarlet dress opened the show, alongside magenta gloves and a stream of cobalt through the hair. That reminded you of eighties Yohji, the epoch-defining catalogues photographed by Nick Knight and filled with stark black silhouettes illuminated with slashes of electric pigment. The combination of lurid scarlet and jet-black evoked that iconic shot of Naomi Campbell reduced to an outline, the only source of light seeming to be a tulle Yamamoto bustle in a vermillion so brilliant it glowed. It was strong throughout this collection, in a trailing velvety stole across a draped black silk jersey dress, or in a graphic shape slashed across the chest, or even enveloping the entire body in a fitted jacket with attached cape.
Capes, hoods and drapery managed, somehow, to link those echoes of Yamamoto past to a sportswear story that spoke about the present, and even the future. The hood and easy flat shoes were a way of deflating those couture references - but oddly enough, both came from Yamamoto past. Perhaps last year's exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum set Yamamoto in a retrospective mood. Certainly, this collection's loveliest moments were those that revived Yamamoto's greatest hits without too much tinkering. A wool dress shaped by pintucks belled out across the thighs, and contrasts of black and ivory in sweeping coats had a timeless grandeur, and lasting allure. Yohji may feel more connected to the street than the salon, but there are few better choices when it comes to dressing up with drama.