The three-part retrospective exhibition of Yohji Yamamoto’s 30 years as a Paris-based designer, taking place across London this spring, will be a treat, for he is one of fashion’s true original thinkers and inventors. When he, Rei Kawakubo and Issey Miyake first brought their starkly modern and not always accessible take on Japanese style to Europe in the early 1980s, they caused shock waves, yet they have stood the test of time and their influence has spread far wider than their customer base – even the perpetual predilection for black is down to them.
Now in his late 60s, Yamamoto still doesn’t pull his punches when he has a startling idea, and he has always been the joker in the pack, adding a spice of wit to what are undeniably intellectual clothes. The main exhibition, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, is quite free-form, with outfits on mannequins spread through the galleries where they seem most effective. At The Wapping Project Bankside there will be an exhibition of photography of Yamamoto’s clothes from his revolutionary days, mainly by then-young talents who are now well known. And an installation at The Wapping Project features a vast, white, crinolined wedding dress, suspended ghostlike over water. All three events open on March 12.
For many, the real trophies will be the limited-edition items that Yamamoto has designed for the occasion. His fabrics are designed and handmade in Japan – for this spring’s menswear he was inspired by the V&A’s heritage to make suits in bold Arts and Crafts prints, worn over Japanese worker-style shirts and waistcoats. The leftover fabric has been made into beautiful, traditional furoshiki sling bags (first picture, £85) – only 240 across six prints. His classic spot print, in black or red with white, comes as an elegant fringed silk scarf (second picture, £150) – 140 across three colourways. Classic Yamamoto wit comes as graphic T-shirts featuring sketches of his favourite objects – his dog Duke, his military boots, even his Rolls-Royce Corniche (third picture, £25); not limited, but they will disappear once they sell out or the exhibition ends. Bets are on it being the former.