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August 29 2014

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Yohji Yamamoto on the Old, the New, and the Now

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Just in time for Berlin’s Gallery Weekend, Yohji Yamamoto descended upon the city for “Yamamoto in Berlin.” The four-day Yohji extravaganza boasted the debut of 5 Cuts—a collaborative video installation, with art space Made, that details Yamamoto’s views on love, life, and creation—as well as the opening of an exhibition by Yamamoto’s set designer, Masao Nihei, and a special runway show comprising Yamamoto’s greatest hits since 1992.

The Japanese designer’s visit to the city was eagerly anticipated by the fashion industry and scenesters alike, only growing stronger through all the rumors about his presence (“I heard he’s using ‘real’ people in the show!”) and the battalion of branded Yohji Yamamoto Audi shuttle cars that invaded the streets of Berlin. The biggest expectations of the visit, however, were perhaps those of the designer himself. “I was dreaming about how Berlin would have changed,” he said after his runway show. “I was here twenty-three years ago, with Wim Wenders, who was editing my movie. At that time, the wall was still up, and I took a tour around it. I was dreaming that Berlin might have changed in a good way—keeping good traditional points, constructing new [modern] buildings, and maintaining this strong mix between the two. But after arriving here, I was a bit disappointed. It looks too flat.” If he was disappointed by Germany, he hasn’t been disappointed by the German people. “I have been working in Paris for about thirty-one years, but most of my closest friends are all German,” he said. “I came here because Berlin is close to Eastern Europe and Russia. It’s a chance to connect with the new market.”

After more than three decades in the business, Yamamoto continues to strive for the new—new designs, new customers, and new twists of fate for his once-beleaguered business. His takeaway from it all? “Keep being yourself, then you will feel the new wind start blowing,” he offered. “People started getting tired about fast fashion and too-luxurious accessories. So I felt a new wind starting to blow. People started looking for something real, something serious to wear. I’m talking about clothing. As proof, continuously for the last two years, my new company has been making money. It was a big surprise.”

Photos: Maxime Ballesteros (Portrait); Alonso Dominguez (Runway show)

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