Why Yohji Was Laughing

A friend of mine came over the other day and commented on the blouse I had in progress on the black foam dress form standing in my studio. She liked the detail of the slashes along the neckline, she said. I looked where the muslin was clipped away to shape the neckline, and fit the back panel smoothly over the shoulder. I explained to her that that was simply a function of the process. “Well I like it anyway,” she said. And so I looked at it again, differently. Maybe there is something there. Isn’t that how many fashion discoveries are made? The deconstructed and the inverted and the raw. Aren’t all of these results of re-analyzing the process? Seeing the beauty in the process? And who is to say it will not be appreciated by those who don’t know exactly where the idea came from?

At Yohji Yamamoto’s Fall 2010 runway show on March 5th, I was silently shocked by the humor underneath the navy and black. I wanted to talk to someone immediately about the brilliant insight. Or discuss how it might not be brilliant at all, but, rather, completely banal.

Sometimes, like in the case of my friend’s visit, it takes someone outside to look in and give you a new perspective. Yohji would appreciate my friend, though he was able, himself, to strip-down his approach and re-direct the formulaic process. Referring specifically to the slashes of the back panel around the armhole, Yohji transformed deconstruction into new construction opportunities. There might traditionally be a back dart, or tuck, or pleat, but Yohji used the slashing method to shape around the complex back shoulder. This was finished onto another layer of felt and integrated into a structured armhole, built up like a frame around it.

In another pun, the pin-tuck that traveled down the back of several of the coats was an homage to the “take it in at center back” command during fittings. Maybe this is fashion for dummies. Or maybe this is a thank you to those dummies who make you look at the same thing you see everyday as if you’ve never seen it before. And suddenly every part of it, every moment, becomes new. Offers new possibilities.

The pleated panels that circled the hem, too long for the circumference of the sweep, were left to hang, revealing hidden details such as a slit in the hem underneath. But the purpose they served, in the context of this collection, was to offer new opportunities, the chance to explore new constructions and new secrets. They spoke to the accuracy or the clumsiness of the process- and what happens when a mistake is made, or even exaggerated. What happens when we stop short of the end, and skip directly onto the next step? That development will come form a place to which we have never been. And so will inevitably take us somewhere we would not have otherwise gone.

In all, beneath the melancholy and deeply emotional collection, Yamamoto was laughing at the clever nuances of the development of a garment. And maybe the process of one coat can become the inspiration for multiple models, or even a lifetime of design possibilities. And maybe that is why at the end he came out with a wonderful smile, an enthusiastic bow, and a toss of his long silver hair.

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