Just listen to the material

This post was written by Andrea Paoletti

Yohji Yamamoto | Victoria & Albert Museum | London | UK

‘I’m searching for a new proportion. What interests me is the ‘space’ between the person wearing the clothes and the clothes themselves – the airiness, the movement, the silhouette’.

The space between the garment and the body is of great importance to the idiosyncratic and ground-breaking designer Yohji Yamamoto. It allows the wearer to inhabit the garment naturally, without being constricted by its shape. And this is the concept also of the installation/exhibition shown at the Victoria & Albert Museum now.

The exhibition design is very closely linked to the exhibition concept, which is really about the show not being a straight forward retrospective. Instead it surveys the themes in his work through the eyes of a site specific installation. They worked on a design concept that emphasize the characteristics of the work without being too didactic. The way this has happened is that the main exhibition space is entirely open and there are no walls. The mannequins are grouped within the space so people can freely walk around.

One of the main aspects of Yamamoto’s work is the fabric, so people can get quite close and see the textures and complexities of his designs.  The visitors experience is central.

He said: ‘Fabric is everything. Often I tell my pattern makers, “Just listen to the material. What is it going to say? Just wait. The material will probably teach you something”‘.

Yamamoto became internationally renowned in the early eighties for challenging traditional notions of fashion by designing garments that seemed oversized, unfinished, played with ideas of gender or fabrics not normally used in fashionable attire such as felt or neoprene. Other works revealed Yamamoto’s unusual pattern cutting, knowledge of fashion history and sense of humour. His work is characterised by a frequent and skilful use of black, a colour which he describes as ‘modest and arrogant at the same time’.

Yamamoto’s visionary designs is also exhibited on mannequins amongst the treasures of the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). Placed in hidden corners of the Museum, the silhouettes create a direct dialogue between Yamamoto’s work and the different spaces in which they are displayed.




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