Yohji Yamamoto is my favourite living fashion designer and it is said that he is one of the greatest fashion designers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Since his designs are unique and some of them are extreme, some people consider that his arts are enigmatic. In spite of those negative views, every single one of his designs has an ineffable beauty and there is Japanese essence behind the forms.
I have read his books, articles and watched videos on Yohji Yamamoto over the years and I want to share some advice he has given to fashion designers.
1) “Just listen to the fabric. What is it saying? Just wait. Probably the material teaches you something”. That is one of his famous sayings to his pattern makers.
Fashion designers and pattern makers tend to use muslin or calico when they create a fashion design because it is an economical way to start experimenting on their first attempt. That is the method we have been taught in fashion schools. In reality, most of the designers would not choose to use calico as a final garment. Calico is coarse, an unsophisticated plain-woven textile made from unbleached and often not fully processed cotton.
Yohji Yamamoto starts with fabric. He lays the final fabric on a dress form to create a design. He can afford to do it because he has mastered his craft. For intermediate fashion designers, using a final fabric for the first trial could cost greatly if they made a mistake.
However, it is an ideal way to design and use the final fabric to work on a mannequin and move toward the chosen design. In doing so, designers can see how well the fabric drapes, whether or not their visions manifest with the final fabric in terms of correlation between the grain line and gravity.
In my case, I use the final fabric to drape and get the pattern if I am absolutely confident although I am still an amateur draper. Otherwise, I would find a similar fabric to achieve the design by draping and applying the best fabric for the final construction.
2) “Do not search for information in terms of getting ideas on the Internet because you will be bombarded with an enormous amount of information and as a result, you will lose yourself”.
It is true that we rely on getting information from the Internet when we are confused. While doing the search, we waste a lot of time in front of the computer. We might get a few sparks from searching but the mind is never satisfied with the little information and strives for more ideas. In addition, we sometimes get distracted by other messages that pop into our minds whether it is related to what we are doing and before we know it, we forget what we have been searching for in the first place. So I understand what Yohji meant when he made that statement.
3) “Copy, copy and copy your favourite masters. At the end of copying, you can find yourself.” What Yohji meant was that practice makes perfect. By reproducing the fine art as a practice, you can cultivate the dexterity of your craft.
He also said, “From time to time, stop and ask yourself why you create things. You could become a writer if you are able to tell stories with words. But if not, you might want to be a creator such as designers, artists and sculptors. You have to practice, practice and practice in order to let the craft instil into your bones and blood. Then let the body express what it wants to express”.
4) Yohji talked about the history of Japan which began around 10,000BC. For a long time, Japanese people have been indoctrinated with the cultural beliefs, dogmas and distinctive ideas of how to be a Japanese.
Yohji’s message to adolescents is “Living in a strict society like Japan is sometimes hard. Some people are adaptable, but others are not. A tough period is a time to consider and question yourself how to live and survive in that environment”.
Some Japanese who cannot tolerate with the conformity of Japan go overseas. They want to be true to themselves and express their freedom.
I think most creators agree with what Yohji Yamamoto has stated through his messages. There is always a precious moment underneath the process of doing when we are being creative. Keep copying fine artists and be prolific. Tenacity is the key to master your craft.