A Yamamoto Treasure Hunt

The Yohji Yamamoto exhibition at the V&A was fantastic. Somehow I got the idea that it was a going to be a large exhibition and was a little surprised when I found myself in a large rectangular room, where I could clearly see the exit as soon as I entered. However, I have to say it was a great exhibition and it was quite refreshing to take my little sister along for the ride. While I’m not at all an expert when it comes to fashion, I am at least very aware of it and I suppose, sort of immersed in it everyday when it comes to blogging. So it was interesting to see/hear my little sister’s reactions to the designs. I suppose, I can compare it to Art exhibitions. Knowing the history behind something gives it more depth/understanding yes, but sometimes it’s nice to forget all the finer details and just concentrate on what is presented physically in front of you.

Yohji Yamamoto exhibition

While photography wasn’t allowed in the actual exhibition, there were further exhibits which were scattered around the museum where photography was allowed. So my sister and I took on the challenge of the Yamamoto treasure hunt (the best kind of all!) and as a result we explored many parts of the museum I had never ventured to before which took longer than anticipated! The ‘Satellite’ exhibits were all specific to the locations in the museum and were placed ‘in conversation’ to the surroundings.

It seemed fitting that our first find was trio of menswear in his signature shade, black. Of course being Yamamoto, things are never quite as simple as they seem with intricate details including lace, embroidery and quilting.

Quitled details: Yohji 3

Black suit jacket with back made from late. White Shirt and black trousers and a black suit with white embroidery. SS09

Quitled details: Yohji 2

Next, we found ourselves in the Paintings gallery. Usually I avoid these rooms because while I can appreciate them, they’re just not my cup of tea. The stunning draping of this dress really caught my eye which not only is a homage to Pina Bausch but also to the feminine form.

Paintings Gallery: Yohji Sleeveless dressLong off-white sleeveless dress
Paintings gallery: Yohji detail

Long off-white sleeveless dress in homage to German choreographer, Pina Bausch. SS92

There is something that I’ve noticed about galleries that hold particularly old works of art. I noticed it at my universities’ art gallery and in the tapestry rooms at the V&A. It’s that vague biscuity smell. I conclude it must be something to do with the humidity levels. Anyway I digress, we discovered these coats which like the tapestries surrounding them, looked extremely heavy. Of course, playing with interesting materials has always been what Yamamoto is known for.

Tapestry Gallery: Long red coats

Tapestry gallery: Long coats

Long red coat with netting. Long black gathered dress with front pockets and black mesh top. AW95-96

At the British Gallery landing we found ourselves confronted with the stark black and white palette of Yamamoto, found in these suits, blouses and skirts all of which play with androgyny and gender stereotypes.

White shirts and dark suits: Yohji 2British Gallery Landing: Yohji Installation 2

Selection of black jackets, white shirts, black pleated skirts.

Pleated skirt
The details and sheer amount of pleating were just stunning to see up close. I adore the sculptural quality of the mushroom pleating seen below which features in some of my favourite dresses by Yamamoto.


Speaking of sculptural pieces, the dresses below are created from white felt take on a sculptural form. The felt itself gives a determined shape to the dress but because the material does not cling to the body, it means that the wearer is not ‘constricted’ by the garment. Here, Yamamoto plays with the idea of the space between the garment and the person wearing it. Definitely really interesting and placed in a stunning location in the museum.

Norfolk Music rooms: White dresses

long white dress detail

Long white dress with open back and black skirt and a white dress with a high collar. AW96-97

In the final gallery, we found a more light hearted approach with prints and words featured in some of the garments, reflecting the humour in his menswear collections. Yamamoto’s key ideas behind his designs is for durability over time and naturally he finds inspiration in military, utility wear and strong fabric finishes.

purple screen printed shirt

Purple screen printed shirt and blue denim with white painted stripe. SS02

anime print knitwear

While most fashion exhibitions do invite you to look closely at the intricacies, both the exhibition and satellite displays at the V&A was particularly open with no barriers holding you back. Unfortunately this resulted in my sister itching to touch all the displays but the Art Historian in me held her back! (the very thought makes me squirm). I was allowed to inspect everything up close, noting the way the fabrics have been manipulated. It’s probably no surprise that Yamamoto prides himself in the fabric of his garments. In fact, this is one of my favourite quotes by Yamamoto which of course I must share. Hope you guys are as inspired as I am!

“I know. It’s just fabric. But it speaks to us like a world. If it were a desert and you are a traveller, you would talk about it’s wind, it’s stars, it’s sun. You probably will”