London's Victoria & Albert Museum is going full tilt with its celebration of avant-garde fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto -- staging a retrospective exhibit of the designer's work, opening March 12, and (for those of us who aren't able to jet to the U.K.) publishing a companion coffee-table book, "Yohji Yamamoto."
The deluxe tome, which features images from runway shows, advertisements and editorial photo shoots over the years, paints a compelling portrait of the reclusive designer, whose work is defined by his fascination with textiles. "Fabric is everything," he has said. "Often I tell my pattern makers, 'Just listen to the material. What is it going to say? Just wait. Probably the material will teach you something.' "
Yamamoto's billowing, sculptural designs, which have often flouted gender roles, have inspired a generation of designers. And the book strives to distill that influence through essays written by close collaborators and friends, including photographers Max Vadukul and Nick Knight; Irene Silvagni, creative director for the brand; and Ligaya Salazar, curator of contemporary programs at the V&A.
The back of the book even includes a (slightly unweildy) roundtable discussion with art director Marc Ascoli, Knight and graphic designer Peter Saville, chaired by curator Magdalene Keaney.
But, as with most fashion books, the images speak most succinctly when it comes to defining the designer's aesthetics, eras and obsessions. And as dramatic and voluminous as Yamamoto's clothes are, they were tailor made for fashion photography.
Memorable photographs include a young Stella Tennant in mid-dance, nearly enveloped in waves of black fabric; Guinevere van Seenus dolled up like a gent in a wool garbardine jacket (pictured); and Amber Valetta wearing a quilted floor-length piece that feels — as many of Yamamotos designs have over the years — as much cocoon as it does coat.
-- Emili Vesilind
Photo: a 1997 image of Guinevere van Seenus in a Yohji Yamamoto design. Credit: Paolo Roversi