From the 31st July to the 8th August 2015, East London’s gallery Live Archives became the home to an unconventional retrospective of fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto’s work. But, this wasn’t just your usual fashion exhibition…


Curated by Jeffrey Horsley, Yohji Yamamoto: Showspace set out to do something different; the exhibition featured over 60 of Yamamoto’s designs, dating back to his Spring 1983 collection, showcased on live models – no lifeless mannequins or glass cabinets, whatsoever. Plus, visitors even got to try on various pieces, purchase selected items and make clothing selections for a presentation, all while Horsley spoke about the history of the outfits.


Yamamoto’s work has been featured in over 40 museum shows since the birth of his brand in 1981 – considering he once said that museums are “where fashion goes to die”, this seems more than ironic. However, irony aside, Yohji Yamamoto: Showspace all stems from Yamamoto’s obvious dislike of fashion exhibitions – and of course his infamous rebellious nature. So, it seems more than necessary to take a step back, learn and pay homage to his unruly career.


“Basically, every single collection is unique and I don’t think about what I have done prior to deduce whatever I should or could do. And it doesn’t have to be intentional. I don’t remember anyway!” – Yamamoto told The Style Report last season. This is a statement that perfectly sums up and singles out this Japanese designer as something of a fashion anarchist – one who has been following in his own footsteps since he started designing in the 1970s. From the very beginning, Yohji detested everything that everyone else was doing; well-known for his tailoring skills and innovative clean designs, nobody dared to create such sharp, dark and oversized silhouettes. He was certainly a true marker of his time.


Yamamoto’s first women’s show in 1981, Paris, featured only black masculine clothes due to the fact that “in those days, Japanese women wore, as a matter of course, imported feminine clothing, and I simply detested that fact,” said Yamamoto. Founding this deconstructionist movement, this is when Yamamoto made his name and launched his namesake brand. From his first venture to this very day, Yohji has rebelled against the norms of fashion and design; recently, his SS15 menswear collection evoked a certain poetic moodiness about his designs – with signature loose-cuts and scarves enveloping the body – and his Y-3 SS16 menswear collection interpreted the use of ‘suits’ and ‘stripes’ in a completely non-mundane way, by all means.


Yamamoto escapes any obvious trends and is always on the look-out for something new; all-in-all, this Japanese designer has mastered the art of surprise. Besides many collections launched by his brands, he has also extended his work to partnerships with the likes of Adidas and the label Y-3 launched in 2003. His most-successful pieces – plus various others – were highlighted at the Yohji Yamamoto: Showspace exhibition, including the Y-3 label, his own Y label that premiered in 1977, a cotton cut-work outfit dating from his Spring 1983 collection and a kimono with beautiful Shibori detail from Spring 1995. This exhibition was a truly unique experience and presented Yamamoto’s incredible skill and his influential force among the fashion industry. Whether we are aware of it or we aren’t, we’ve all can learn a lot from this rebellious Japanese designer.