yohji. women. armor


so, from the beginning, i wanted to protect the clothes themselves from fashion, and at the same time protect the woman’s body from something – maybe from men’s eyes or a cold wind. i wanted people to keep on wearing my clothes for at least 10 years or more, so i requested the fabric maker to make a very strong, tough finish.

you say you wanted to protect the female body and your clothes often have a playful androgyny in them. should men and women be able to dress more like each other?

when i started making clothes for my line y’s in 1977, all i wanted was for women to wear men’s clothes. i jumped on the idea of designing coats for women. it meant something to me – the idea of a coat guarding and hiding a woman’s body. for me, a woman who is absorbed in her work, who does not care about gaining one’s favor, strong yet subtle at the same time, is essentially more seductive. the more she hides and abandons her femininity, the more it emerges from the very heart of her existence. a pair of brilliantly cut cotton trousers can be more beautiful than a gorgeous silk gown.

(interview for the talks)

yohji with pina

do you see yourself as her protector or provider?
maybe as protector. Sixty years have passed since my mother started working. japanese society is naturally very unfair to women. in japan, women are not human beings, for example when my mother wanted to borrow money from the bank, because she is a woman the bank people didn’t treat her well. so i started to watch the world through my mother’s eyes and naturally i realised i needed to protect her.

are there any other iconic women in your life besides your mother?
let me say i have three femme fatales; firstly my mother, secondly… the situation is very complicated so i cannot name her, but you can imagine…

one woman is not enough?
not enough, not enough. i have no desire for anything else. i have no taste for property. the story is more interesting when i talk about art. when i was a boy at primary school my teacher and my mother realised i was very good at drawing and painting. it came very naturally to me. so when  i stand up in front of art, whether painting, sculpture or architecture, i feel simply this is doing … in that way i don’t like to be influenced by art. i will always be interested in people.

which is more important to you, fashion or women?
women are important. first comes women, and fashion just follows.

why are women so special?
my mother is always there, i think it’s important for a boy’s mother to be there, always punishing, always checking. i always want to come back to the mother’s body.


with mother

”i think that my men’s clothes look as good on women as my women’s clothing,” said mr. yamamoto. ”and more and more women are buying my men’s clothes. it’s happening everywhere, and not just with my clothes. men’s clothing is more pure in design. it’s more simple and has no decoration. women want that. when i started designing, i wanted to make men’s clothes for women. but there were no buyers for it. now there are. i always wonder who decided that there should be a difference in the clothes of men and women. perhaps men decided this.” (ny times)

 harper’s bazaar russia january 2003. “people in black” charlotte rampling and yohji yamamoto, photographer : kay ogata

as a rule i like clothes that might be described as monastic. for years i have been addicted to yohji yamamoto’s designs. his clothes really suit me in their unfussiness.

charlotte for the guardian

marine landrot: weren’t you interested in fashion before?

charlotte rampling: yes, but i didn’t take a really close interest. i wore whatever suited me from different designers. when i discovered yohji, something strange happened. it was rather like joining a sect. i didn’t see many people dressed like this and i felt unique. yohji’s clothes are not slaves to fashion, you can wear them anywhere, anytime and yet they always feel avant-garde. you want to wear them over the eyears, you have to really live in them, understand them, learn how to move in them. he makes a perfect garment and then deconstructs it, giving it a personality, an identity.

marine landrot: have you got any clothing to which you attach special importance?

charlotte rampling: a pair of shoes. black schoolgirl shoes. my first pair of yohji shoes. i polished the leather ritualistically, i wore them with everything, i kept them for years. then, one day i bought a puppy and the puppy loved those shoes, perhaps even more than me. he literally chewed them up! i was sad for a long time and it made me realise the connection i have with yohji’s clothes. i would put those shoes on and away I’d go, confident in the way i felt. that’s Yohji for you. when i slip into his clothes, i feel a strong sense of identity.

charlotte for a magazine


patti smith in yohji yamamoto, april 1998 new york by richard avedon

donata wenders and yohji

yohji’s clothing has a huge effect on me. and on the models who show his work. i love to observe them backstage, while they slip into his dresses…

wim, my husband, introduced me years ago to y.y.’s fashion. ever since then, when i put on the first dress by yohji, his clothes have slowly taken over my closet, and not much else has stayed in there. i practically wear nothing else any more now, with the exception of my darkroom work coat.yohji’s clothing lets me become more of the person i want to be.

his clothes guide me, teach me, even give me the feeling of “i am taken care of”, they softly and steadily confirm my identity. in his clothes i feel i am always appropriately dressed for each and every situation. they are timeless and still up to date. i wear his dresses and trousers for 8 years now. none of them are worn out. on the contrary, i have the impression they become better with time, more part of my life. they are like different skins of myself and i have stories to tell about the time when i was wearing this or that piece.

the way yohji creates his clothes is full of attention for whatever piece he is working on. watching him, it never seems to be about himself or his taste. he follows the material and his intuition for women. i think that makes him and his creation so beautiful. i can’t wait for the next opportunity to be around him with my camera, as i had the privilege for this afternoon in january 2000 in paris.

 (donata wenders about yohji)


“for me, a woman who is absorbed in her work, who does not care about gaining one’s favour, strong yet subtle at the same time, is essentially more seductive. the more she hides and abandons her femininity, the more it emerges from the very heart of her existence.


fashion sighs after trends. i want timeless elegance.

fashion has no time. i do. i say: hello lady, how can i help you?

fashion has no time i even ask such a question, because it is constantly concerned with finding out: what will come next?

it is more about helping women to suffer less, to attain more freedom and independence.”


yohji / right

rules of style from yohji yamamoto

1. i believe that there are three conditions to a woman’s beauty. first, you must realize that not all women are beautiful all of the time. sometimes beauty comes on a subconscious level. when she is in love, or has met someone new and exciting, she shines. second, you must understand that life is unfair. beauty is something that, for some, must be worked at. the third condition is luck. some women can just be lucky.

2. my role in all of this is very simple. i make clothing like armor. my clothing protects you from unwelcome eyes.

3. color, for me, has too many stories wrapped around it. i like black, white, gray, and navy. like a uniform.

4. life is better for beautiful people. you can become lucky if you are beautiful, you can become rich. But there is no truth in this definition of beauty.

5. if you feel strongly about someone, go up to them. pursue what you want in life. why be shy about something like that?

6. you can tell what a woman is going to be like in bed just by looking at her. there is a feeling about someone that comes from experience. when you’ve seen it once, you will recognize it again.

7. fashion cannot make you sexy. wxperience makes you sexy. imagination makes people sexy. you have to train yourself, you have to study, and you have to live your life.

8. i love the back. a beautiful back makes a beautiful front. when you slouch, think about what happens to your front. you have to keep your back in the right position. this is where your spirit lies.

9. men’s clothing is about tiny details, and i hate that. i am very small and i look stupid in a perfectly tailored suit. i want to be able to wear things that don’t fit perfectly, with the sleeves far too long. i wish clothing came with no sizes at all. it would be much better that way.

10. the biggest mistake you can make in fashion is imitation. if we keep on like this, fashion will die. there was a time when i used to fall in love on the street every day. i would see someone with such a way about them or such a flawless item that i would have to say, “stop! please! that’s perfect.” that never happens anymore. everything is too similar. soon it will be only a t-shirt and jeans.

11. i don’t think we should try to make space our own. i believe that as modern people we should live in mobility. we should always be moving.



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