The unprepossessing bunker that is the show venue at Bercy was the site of the Yohji Yamamoto runway presentation this evening. Yet this back-to-basics place, with its simple lines of wooden chairs arranged in a square, turned out to be the launch pad for a fashion show that was really something special. Yamamoto honed in on what it really means to produce fashion today, away from pyrotechnics and with a focus on the real spectacle of exceptional clothes.
The spirit of rebellion and doing-what-the-hell-I-want that seems to be possessing Alber Elbaz at the moment also seems to be grabbing Yohji Yamamoto. There were so many foundations for so many collections in this show that it was quite bewildering. In lesser hands, this might have appeared like somebody who did not know what the hell they were doing, with few hits and a lot of misses. In Yamamoto's case the exact opposite was true: it appeared he knew exactly, precisely what he was doing. This collection was a bravura display from somebody who has and has had so many ideas that he is one of the definitive figures in shaping the way contemporary fashion is perceived. Sometimes it is easy to forget that with Yamamoto; he's like a favorite song you don't play for a long time and then hear again, thinking "How good is that?" In turn, this collection was like a Yohji compilation album: reworked, remastered, lost tracks, new material, the lot.
The beginning might have had a debt to the eighties Yohji, in its stripped-down black looks that were actually far from simple—complex, technical cutting prevailed in this workwear-inflected section, as it did throughout. But this moved on quickly to double-breasted tailoring with kimono sleeves, then to mathematically precise origami square-pleated looks, then frayed picture hats and tailcoats paired with cream trousers that brought to mind the crispness of cricket whites… the descriptions of cutting, pleating, tailoring, draping, knitting, and the multiplicity of silhouettes could continue. There was also a shock of various colors between the beloved blacks. But the point of these clothes is that they have to be seen and experienced: Consuming a catwalk image or reading about them is just not going to cut it.
As Yamamoto said backstage after his show: "I am a dressmaker; I am not a fashion designer. From 10 to 15 years ago the fashion market became shit." Yes, that was "shit." He made a point of clarifying that before continuing. "My role is to get the value of clothing back for everyone: cutting, draping, tailoring. There was no real theme to the collection, I just wanted to make dresses, to tailor and enjoy the value of clothing."