Sometimes it takes a group of outsiders to help you understand your world. Yohji Yamamoto is one member of the three way Japanese triumvirate (alongside Rei Kawakubo and Issey Miyake), who has done just this. Item by item, they have re-examined classic pieces within the Western wardrobe - and their creative potential. One might ask this season, what’s in a jumper? How can a jumper be more than a jumper? This archetypal western wardrobe staple was layered, tied and draped to create new form and function, within the opening looks of the collection. Hip panels on skirts were not only created with tied sweaters, but entire skirts. Like a mille-feuille of all the clothes we probably have at home, the stomach guzzling bricolage seemed to be a comment on consumption. Hair was also collaged, as red synthetic wigs sat atop the frizzy manes of Gustav Klimt-esque sitters. Asymmetric lines were falling off the body, whilst plastic was wrapped around the form. The only colour which Yamamoto has ever constituted as being anywhere near as powerful as black or white is the colour red. This season, it was a graphic accompaniment to a monochrome palette.
In contrast to the Hotel du Ville's baroque environ, this monastic collection felt pious and solemn – which in Yamamoto’s world probably meant joyous. As the clock struck midnight (only a couple of hours away, due to it being a late running Friday night show) Yohji Yamamoto would be turning 73 years old. The Japanese designers see black as life and white as death. But even I was pushed to release myself from my Western conditioning – where we see colours' meanings as quite the opposite. Models wore caps with an oversized peak; a nod to Yohji's perfect alignment, the utilitarian nature of sportswear, and his world of Y-3. But there was also something more sinister; they resembled the masks worn in plague ridden 1630 Venice, when officials came to collect the dead. Black wellingtons also lent a post mortem edge, whilst layered hooped skirts and bloomers added to a Victorian funeral mood. All of these moribund tropes are so inherent in the work of the Japanese, that this collection was more likely to be part of an ongoing post mortem of our world, rather than anything revealingly personal.
Volume was built from the back of pieces, via bustles and corsets. Caps became scaled down and were worn with black veils. Naive appliqués scribbled over black dresses in blue, tapped into the emergence of denim in the collection. Synonymous with the Japanese designer, the several caged skirts which followed went beyond the Japanese design value of wabi-sabi, (directly translating as beauty in the imperfect). Like a shipwreck, one dress looked abandoned yet lived in. Undone wired parts of dresses lurched out from the frame. The music stopped, and the clothes ominously spoke for themselves. Cut in half red hoops saw clothing constructed around disconnected structures; pairs of ends of red tubing evoked a devilish air.
The sombre drawl - which sang over a deep south style Spanish guitar - softly insisted, "I don't need your compassion". This turned out to be the voice of Yohji Yamamoto himself. It seems he’s just fine. For Yohji Yamamoto, he doesn’t think about dresses, he thinks about fabric. To him, the fabric is the dress. However, this collection wasn’t just about fabric; it was about the viewer’s imagination. It was about our world, beautifully upturned. Happy birthday, Mr Yamamoto - and thank you.