“Are you listening? The fabric has so much to teach us.”
Summer is always a great time to explore the latest exhibitions as the demands of academic life slow down for a few weeks.
I was particularly pleased to hear that a new exhibition exploring the work of one of my favourite designers, Yohji Yamamoto opened on Friday at Live Archives.
Although Yamamoto is one of the most exhibited living fashion designers – his work has featured in almost fifty museum presentations since 1983 – he has famously declared “I hate exhibitions” and that “museums are where fashion goes to die”.
Fittingly, this show run by former LCF PHD student Jeffrey Horsley, is not your usual fashion exhibition. Set in the intimate Mare Street venue, the garments were not hung on mannequins, but worn on a live model.
Jeffrey, inspired by Yamamoto’s appreciation of the golden age of Paris couture – evident in explicit references to the work of Madame Gres, Dior and Chanel in his collections – created a contemporary couture salon, where visitors are invited to try on clothes or select ones to be presented on the live model.
When speaking about his decision to show his pret-a-porter collection during the Paris couture schedule Yamamoto said:
“I had been thinking to show my clothes in front of a comfortable number of people, allowing them to smell the fabric in a very intimate way. This has been my dream for a long time.”
This desire for intimacy is at the heart of the SHOWSPACE exhibition. Yamamoto’s vision of a sensory and emotional association with garments is realised as we experience first-hand how his garments fit a moving body
One of Yamamoto’s trademarks is to incorporate multiple options of how a garment can be worn, and SHOWSPACE enables us to explore these options and participate in Yamamoto’s creative process.
The exhibition also highlights the sophisticated design of Yamamoto’s garments and how he reconstructs Western dress conventions, highlighting his technical ability as a dressmaker.
Dropped armholes and displaced shoulder seams give a new softness to the shoulder. Notches in the offset collar reveal more of the crucial neckline and vertebrae.
Jeffrey explains how Yamamoto always likes to focus on the body’s two key curves: the neck and back. He said, when Yamamoto is imagining a woman to dress, he sees an older woman walking away from him, picturing the back of her neck and body, he calls at her, but she keeps on walking.
The sense of an empowered and individual woman runs right through Yamamoto’s clothes. There is a real sense of fluidity and undress almost – his clothes are not tight, never forced on the body, but work with it, they are loose and often just need to be clutched closed.
His clothes might be fitted round the waist or sleeves, but you’re not having to struggle to pull your skirt down, or sit in tight trousers, he understands clothes need to have a relationship to the person wearing them, it’s about freedom.
His focus on liberation is only highlighted further by the fact that, as Jeffrey also points out, almost all his designs include pockets. According to Yamamoto, putting pockets into a woman’s garment releases her, she should never have to carry a bag.
Over 60 pieces from the LA collection are featured in the room, a mixture of archive and retail pieces, all from different collections which makes it a unique presentation.
SHOWSPACE focuses on clothes to be worn, not showpieces destined for magazine pages and institutional showrooms. There is a real focus on understanding how the pieces relate to their body and how they function as wearable pieces.
Just like Yamamoto himself, this exhibition is about the garments, not the fashionability. It’s not a show-stopper, it’s understated, well-informed, simple and highly enjoyable.
For those that want to see more of the exhibition, I will be posting a few pictures from the show tomorrow!
Yohji Yamamoto: SHOWSPACE
31 July – 8 August 2015
81 Mare Street
London E8 4RG