Cryptic, gnomic, enigmaticone soon runs out of ways to describe Yohji Yamamoto's backstage statements. This time around, he said, "I thought menswear was becoming a little bit feminine; I wanted to make it masculine again." Straightforward enough, except that he spoke by way of denying any military subtext in a show that played out to a martial drumbeat and included looks that could have graced conflict zones as disparate as Culloden in 1746 (the warrior sweeps of plaid), the Odessa Steps in 1905 (military caps and cadet uniforms), and Córdoba in 1936 (white shirts, berets). Oh, well, perhaps the designer had the jumbo proportions of a gray double-breasted tweed jacket over baggy tweed trousers in mind for his New Man (another hint of Chaplin, especially when the bowler hats showed up).
Yohji is a fascinating instance of a designer who has stuck to his guns and watched as the pendulum swung back to his comfort zone. Oversize proportions, asymmetry, random zipping, a relentlessly downbeat palette of black, gray, and navyyes, all the signatures were present and correct. But they were leavened by a trio of cupro pajama suits, garment-dyed in intense purple, orange, or bright green. The use of plaid, Fall 2008's favorite pattern, was spectacularit was covert in the folds of a multi-pleated coat, overt as the finale's huge shawl with a kiltlike attachment (or was it a huge kilt with a shawl-like attachment?). Several U.S. retailers were enchanted by the scarf-style swathes attached to one shoulder of a jacket. Round and round they wound. And a group in a lustrous lacquered fabric suggested that a voluptuary's heart might beat in Yohji's bosom after all.