Yohji Yamamoto is in town. The legendary Japanese designer is sending out a presence across the capital, celebrating 30 years in fashion with a major retrospective at the V&A, a photography exhibition at The Wapping Project Bankside, an awe-inspiring installation at The Wapping Project and the grand opening of his first Y-3 London store.
Entering the exhibition space at the V&A, you are greeted with 60-odd mannequins wearing Yamamoto’s archival designs with a wall of multimedia installations around the perimeter organised chronologically. From Yamamoto’s Paris debut in 1981, his menswear debut in 1984 and Wim Wenders’ 1989 film on the designer, to the catalogues created by legends in their own right Marc Ascoli, Nick Knight, Peter Saville and M/M, the exhibition builds layer upon layer of context in which you can fully appreciated one of fashion’s most admired innovators. “You are among Yohji’s people”, said one V&A member of staff.
Arriving in Paris with Rei Kawakubo in 1981, Yamamoto’s first collection suffered hostile criticism, with WWD publishing an article shortly after crossing out the images in an angry reaction to something they couldn’t understand at the time, because it was not of the time. The collection was a vision of the future and watching the footage (see film, top), you can understand why it was a shock. Models glided down the catwalk in nightmarish makeup evoking the fear of Yamamoto in the audience.
In tandem with the V&A retrospective, The Wapping Project and The Wapping Project Bankside, with founder Jules Wright at the helm, present Yamamoto in deeper context yet. Testament to Jules’ artistic vision, the experience in the Wapping Project is second to none. The boiler room of the hydraulic power station has been flooded, which took a team of firemen to execute. The room is filled with darkness but for Yamamoto’s mighty silk wedding dress, hanging upside-down from the ceiling with an illuminated bodice that offsets the reflection and ripple of the surrounding water. i-D were privileged enough to film the installation ahead of the opening from the vantage point of a small boat sailing across the room (see film, bottom).
The Wapping Project Bankside also presents an exhibition titled ‘Yohji’s Women’, showcasing the iconic photographs of Yamamoto’s clothes by Nick Knight, Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Craig McDean, Paolo Roversi, Max Vadukul and more. The theme of women is omnipresent throughout Yamamoto’s work; the V&A space is dotted with life drawings of a woman’s body on the walls, which he drew himself over two days from a live naked model. Yamamoto was inspired by his mother, who worked incredibly hard to support him whilst he was growing up in post-war Japan. His clothes require a very strong woman to pull them off.
i-D Online were the first through the doors at the V&A this morning, where we spoke to curator and out-and-out Yamamoto fanatic Ligaya Salazar (see top film), before heading to the Wapping Project to meet with founder Jules Wright and take a boat trip (see bottom film).
Tonight also marks the opening of the first London based Y-3 store. Yamamoto was appointed creative director in 2002 and the brand was the first ever fashion-sport collaboration, yet another example of his outstanding innovation.
‘Yohji Yamamoto’ at the V&A and ‘Yohji Making Waves’ at The Wapping Project will be open from 12th March – 10th July 2011. ‘Yohji’s Women’ at The Wapping Project Bankside runs from 12th March – 14th May. For more, check out The Livin’ Loud Issue, where Terry Jones and Yamamoto exchange letters the old fashioned way.