Tag Archives: Yohji Yamamoto

Alternatives, 2012

The Men’s Dress Reform Party, London, 1937

One of the many factions advocating radical change in conventional Western dress in the early 20th century, the Men’s Dress Reform Party pursued a softer, easier look based on comfort and aesthetic principle. Soft collars, shorts,  breeches, and even sandals were prized for their sartorial freedom and their parallel political reflections.

Raincoat designed by Issey Miyake, modeled by Kabuki actor Kichiemon Nakamura

Miyake found no discrepancy between East and West, believing that the two could combine into an amalgam of a modern world. In his design of a raincoat the binary of traditional Japanese clothes making and modern technology only compliment each other.

Yohji Yamamoto, circa 1984

Yamamoto utilized his native dress  with no less fervor bringing essentially Japanese shapes and forms to fashionable attention, facing head-on world dominating Western dress. While it would not reshape the modern wardrobe it would help put it into perspective and offer at least one divergent direction forward.

Giorgio Armani, 1990

Armani’s relaxed attitude, burgeoning into ubiquity in the late ’80s and early ’90s, took its inspiration from dress of the Middle East and Asia. A softer silhouette, still in cahoots with the oversized masculinity of its time, was sensual and seductive.

Raf Simons, 2005

Simons’s fall 2005 collection was an anathema to men’s fashion of its time. Sending out street casted boys in oversized silhouettes, owing as much to 1980’s Yamamoto as it does  the decades’ science fiction narratives ala Blade Runner and Brazil, the show struck a note that would vibrate much longer than a single season.

The spring 2012 men’s wear collections from Yohji Yamamoto, Jil Sander, Dries Van Noten, Christophe Lemaire, Issey Miyake, Damir Doma, Thom Browne, and Lanvin.

The Spring 2012 men’s wear collections in Milan and Paris are not so easily defined through rock‘n’roll, iconic heritage, or some kind of vague sartorialism – the usual language that gets bandied around from season to season to describe men’s fashion. The collections this time had a lot more to them. Trying to clearly express what it is, what these clothes really are, is much trickier, muddled in their ambiguity and contradictions; at once soft and strict, synthetic and natural, ancient and modern. There are no easy references to rely on but there is a means forward.

Mesomorphs, 2011

David Byrne’s Noh inspired suit for the 1985 Talking Heads concert movie Stop Making Sense. Designed and worn for a particular dramatic effect, the costume’s immense scale obscures the wearer inside, as if to erase their presence, creating a otherworldly if not alarming effect.

A band of Los Angeles boys  pose in their contentious zoot suits of the early 1940’s. Already a popular style for a few years, the iconic suit was essentially outlawed in the face of the WWII L-85 order which prohibited the use of excessive yardage in clothing. To wear a zoot suit was considered explicitly un-American and that is exactly why Latino and Black American youths, displaced socially and economically from any kind of American identity, wore the suits as an act of rebellion. In  the summer of 1943 a riot broke out sweeping Los Angeles’ s barrio. A mob of U.S. servicemen enraged by the flagrant display and by their own bigotry stormed the streets beating any minority youths wearing a zoot suit, going as far as stripping them naked and burning their clothes.

The indomitable silhouette of the 80’s was defined by a large and broad shoulder and for menswear it was  tied  most closely to Giorgio Armani. The “Armani” shoulder would define a whole concept of masculinity in menswear, stretching into the ’90s, where by the end of that decade it would be abandoned for a slimmer line.

F/W 2011-2012 collections from Prada, Dries Van Noten, Damir Doma, Z Zegna, and Yohji Yamamoto

There wasn’t much in the recent menswear collections in Milan and Paris in the way of novelty, perhaps that’s the essentialist effect on men’s fashion; no trendy minimalist declarations,  just no-nonsense clothes. But it helps make anything out of the ordinary, like a new proportion, become immediately apparent. Prada made a big statement (pardon the pun) with broad shoulders and large expanses of fabrics. The idea resurfaced for a look or two at Dries Van Noten and Z Zegna. At Damir Doma, the shoulder was softer, a silhouette the designer has been presenting for several seasons. A former Raf Simons assistant, Doma has quietly exploded in menswear and has convincingly reintroduced the idea of volume to a generation that was all too happy to abandon the engorged model of masculinity of the ’90s — a generation that would be the first to  scrutinize any perceived throwback. And at Yohji Yamamoto, where the designer’s broad but softened shoulders and voluminous shapes have been a staple for almost 30 years, it was his oversized but relaxed silhouette, in the midst of these new but peculiar shapes, that looked incredibly fresh.