What intrigues me most about wearing Yohji Yamamoto is how I can put on a blouse-like tent shirt and enormous trousers that resemble a long pleated tulip skirt, clothes so voluminous and so graceful, and feel so masculine, like a decorated, yet dark and recluse samurai, one that has slain enemies in the thousands, yet relinquishes all honor to his brothers. It is starting to get chilly in New York City, and I thought I’d cover up in a typical Yohji manner. I first fell in love with the designer’s aesthetic via Y-3, his collaboration line with Adidas, getting to wear pieces from his main line is an honor and a blessing.
In an interview with curator Ligaya Salazar for his V&A exhibition, he tells the story behind the trademark volume in his men’s clothes. He speaks of the beauty of space, the idea of that last five or seven per cent, the “in-between” or “uncompleted”, perhaps in the same vein as how in Japan, they would always only fill your glass of water halfway, because they find beauty in emptiness. Yamamoto relates this visual space he places in between the garment and the wearer to the English expression of “reading between the lines,” and it is in this subtle concealment of the male body that I find the key to the deep masculinity of his seemingly feminine clothes. The somber colors, the sweeping lines, the pragmatic choice of fabrics, the way the clothes play with skimming and obscuring the body, revealing nary a taut muscle or a belly roll—that restraint is what makes his clothes so sexy. Yamamoto says:
“Let’s be far from our suits and ties. Let’s be far from businessmen. Let’s be vagabonds. I was born in a very bad moment in Japan. There was no food to feed babies, so my generation of people are very small. So naturally I am angry about my size, so I design big sizes. I started by designing air in the jacket, in the shirt. Men’s items are very limited – the shirt, jacket and trousers, maybe a coat, that’s it. It’s about how to put air between cloth and body.”