Yohji Yamamoto and The Anti-Fashion Movement

About Yohji Yamamoto

Yohji Yamamoto, born in Japan during World War II, was the only son of a war widow. Raised by his mother, he spent his childhood and early university life studying hard to please her.

Yamamoto's mother was a dressmaker with a shop in Kabukicho, an amusement district in Tokyo's Shunjuku. Yamomoto was opposed to joining the typical workforce so after graduating from the renowned Keio University in Tokyo, he starting working with his mother. He enrolled in the Bunka Fashion College which was popular for training designers, such as Kenzo Takada and Junya Watanabe. At the time, the college was mainly dominated by girls who were preparing to get married and had enrolled in the college to learn flower arrangements, cooking, and dressmaking. 

Yamamoto's Journey As a Designer

Yamomoto was eager to learn cutting, sewing, and garment-making. However, the early days of his career were not easy. After graduating from Bunka, he won a prize to go to Paris for a period of one year. Upon reaching, to his dismay, he found that the haute culture that he had studied in College was being replaced by a ready-to-wear movement. 

After his designs were rejected by multiple magazines in Paris, Yamomoto found himself losing hope and started indulging in self-destructive behaviors. Soon, he returned to Japan and started working for his mother. While taking measurements of clients, he noticed that all of them were tall, feminine, gorgeous, and wore clothing that accentuated their curves. It was then that Yamomoto found his unique fashion sense as he decided that he wanted to create loose-fit clothing for women that were considered manly at the time. 

The Anti-Fashion Movement

A new wave of designers had started to steer away from the traditional aesthetics of fashion, ie, girly clothing. This movement was categorized under the umbrella term "anti-fashion" and it represented the social and political issues of society. The anti-fashion movement appealed to Yamamoto- he desperately wanted to move away from the shackles of ordinary fashion and establish a clothing line that was away from the norm. This movement attracted rebellious and curious young designers who wanted to challenge and alter the conventional course of fashion.

Soon, Yamomoto opened up ready-to-wear companies in all the major cities in Japan that introduced his distinct fashion style. After evaluating his success, he decided to venture out to Paris and introduce his clothing line to the people there. Coincidentally, he opened his shop at the same type that a fellow Japanese designer, Rei Kawakubo, held her first show for her clothing brand Comme des Garcons (a French word that translates to "like boys" in English). Hence, in 1983, the two outsider Japanese designers forced designers to reconsider their old-school approach to fashion.

What Made Yamamoto's Fashion Line So Radical and Different

As opposed to his predecessors, Yamamoto's clothing line consisted of designs that were disproportionate and asymmetrical. His garments featured holes and patches and were inspired by Japanese-style kimonos- loose fabrics that did not fall under the standard delicate, feminine, and sculpted clothing category. They had an unfinished look that created a stark contrast with the world of ultra glamour, high heels, and perfectly stitched clothing.

Yamamoto's models flaunted his designs in minimal to no-makeup. All this fell in line with the anti-fashion movement and Yamamoto's own vision of creating looks that were not ultra-feminine. His rebellious statement towards fashion was to encourage women to adopt comfortable styles of clothing and represent those who felt pressured to adapt to traditionally girly and chic styles.  

The outfits that Yamomoto created attracted loads of consumer attention. Fashionistas were so tired of stereotypical colorful girly fashion that they welcomed the clothing that the Japanese pair introduced. By 2003, Yamomoto introduced a crossover of fashion and athleisure by collaborating with Adidas. He wanted to experiment with the on-going sneaker culture spreading in the United States and decided to make a fashion line focused on streetwear. Soon, the designer and his movement attracted a loyal global following. 

Want to read more about streetwear and grunge culture? Click here (hyperlink published link to blog 2).