Me Paradox: Gain the Social Business Edge
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I like being behind. At the same time we had a great designer — Yves Saint Laurent. There was a phone call. For the label. How do you pronounce it? Yohji Yamamoto — more often today simply Yohji, as we all now know very well how to pronounce his name — was born in Shinjuku Prefecture, Tokyo, in His father was drafted and killed in the second world war. Buried in his empty grave is the Leica camera he so adored.
He was sent to war when I was a one-month-old baby. I just saw his photo. Good-looking man. Is it my father? So I grew up looking at the back of my mother, hard-working, like this. His mother ran a dressmaking business. She made huge sacrifices to send her son to school and then university — he completed a law degree at Keio University in — and he worked for her in his free time. Fumi Yamamoto is now years old. Maybe I was thinking about my own end.
He was only 36 years old when he went to the army, just one year before the war ended. He was sent to the south. At that moment, in the Japanese army, there were no big boats. So they used fishing boats. How must my father have felt, treated like that, this year-old man? So I was thinking about my mother, and my father. And plus, recently, about three or four years ago, my business became crazy. And I thought, maybe this is my father, my father is pushing me. Despite critical acclaim, Yohji Yamamoto, the company, has struggled in recent history.
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In October , following the financial crisis, it was rescued from bankruptcy at the 11th hour by the Japanese private-equity fund Integral Corporation, which has since re-partnered and restructured the business. By , it was out of debt. In their defence, Yamamoto himself has never been primarily driven by commercial concerns. I consider this to be the turning point of my final chapter.
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Said chapter decrees that, today, in his native Tokyo and in Paris, Beijing and Shanghai, Yamamoto is a star, albeit a reluctant one, regularly stopped in the street and photographed or asked for his autograph. The delicacy, strength, emotion and purity of his point of view is nothing if not testimony to the fact that if you believe in what you do and resist compromise, greatness prevails. So many young people started appreciating my work, started wearing my clothes.
A scary responsibility. By the end of December last year, the spring collection had sold out. Yamamoto is interested in asymmetry, finding beauty in imperfection rather than high-shine glamour. In his native Japan, wabi-sabi is a worldview that represents an acceptance of transience, celebrating the imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. It is safe to assume that Yamamoto has been deeply affected by such a way of thinking. If I can feel those things in work by others, then I like them.
Perfection is a kind of order, like overall harmony, and so on. These are things someone forces onto something.
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The former fashion editor at Vogue Italia and editor of Italian Elle often included Yohji Yamamoto in editorials and later, having opened the world-renowned Galleria Carla Sozzani in , and store 10 Corso Como the following year, bought his collections. In she edited the seminal Yohji Yamamoto tome Talking to Myself.
Later, when I travelled, his stores became destinations for me, places where I knew I would find and always buy a wonderful piece of Yamamoto. I think the people who wear Yohji recognise and appreciate an intellectual yet simple and subdued attitude. You see it in their presence. Whether it is the clothes that give the confidence or one has to have confidence to wear the clothes is an interesting question.
Yohji is a gentle, open man, but also a revolutionary. You can feel his love and respect for the people around him but he needs to be free. His freedom makes him a pioneer.
His effect on fashion has been huge. I prefer to dream. After graduating with a further degree, this time in fashion in , Yamamoto set up on his own. I hated it. They had shaped my image of womanhood since childhood and I was therefore determined at all costs to avoid creating the cute, doll-like women that some men so adore.
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Instead, he was inspired by Japanese workwear for men and the photography of August Sander. In those days, Japanese women wore, as a matter of course, imported feminine clothing and I simply detested that fact. I was looking up. Maybe I can never come to such a high level. Mostly impossible, I felt. I felt like a nobody, like a nothing.
So finally I chose my way of not being a great designer in the general way that is understood. I preferred to start working on the sidewalk of fashion as opposed to the mainstream, on the dark side, the wild side of the street, from the narrow, wrong side of the street. It was also a sound kick in the teeth to preconceived notions of status in designer fashion. That 30 per cent upheld a similarly unconventional and individualistic point of view to the designer himself and has remained loyal to him for decades.
The actress Charlotte Rampling has known Yamamoto and worn his clothes consistently for 25 years.
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With Yohji, he had an extraordinarily low profile, even though the look was anything but. I wanted to find something that dressed me without my actually being overdressed, ostentatious. It seemed that, more and more, I picked up different pieces of Yohji and learnt how to wear them, how to live with them, how to tame them, really.
Some were quite outrageous, not in a flashy, showy way, but structurally. So I became a kind of Yohji addict. I have all his clothes from way back and still buy his clothes. It looks like me. I love Yohji. Of course, the shock of the new soon filtered into the broader consciousness. Marc Ascoli worked with Yohji Yamamoto from to and then again from to the early s, commissioning his seasonal catalogues using both established names and the emerging talent of the time. The result of these collaborations was every bit as groundbreaking as the clothes.
It was an intellectual, sophisticated and sensitive interpretation of fashion. It was a reflection on life, not just clothes. I found that exceptional — completely original and very couture. For me it was a new form of couture — the drape, the folds. I met Yohji, and he was exactly how I imagined he would be, very open, very cool.
For me, it was a dream. When I arrived there, I found a family. I had never seen that before, that way of being.
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Everything revolved around him, his mother, a group of people that was devoted to him. It was very far from what I had experienced in Paris. There was a synergy between us, I think, but we did what he wanted. He decided everything. He had a kind of freedom and he gave us the means to do things.
He was an intuitive man. His tools spoke of nonchalance, ruin and decadence in clothing. There is so much work in their construction. He works on basics, on a military jacket, on a trench coat, and he transforms them into Yohji Yamamoto for the everyday. There is an urbanity to his clothes that is very relevant.
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Yohji is someone who has a real sense of clothes and also a real sense of poetry.