The New York Times declared that Yamamoto’s debt totalled $67 million at the end of August following a few “ill-timed store openings in Antwerp, New York and Paris.”
Wow. How do these designers manage to spiral into such debt? And especially ones like Yohji who, as far as I know, don’t own fleets of vintage speedboats and decorate their house with real boys. Surely high fashion isn’t a game of boom and bust, but mega profit, mega-mega profit and Sega-mega Super Sonic profit?
In ‘81 Yohji Yamamoto invaded the Paris fashion scene with his mystical and minimal garments which claimed to come not from sketches but from the inner recesses of his mind. Back then he was making only 2,400 items of clothing a year and 9 out of 10 were black. Alongside Commes Des Garçons (ran by his on/off lover Rei Kawakubo), they became a polarised fashion alliance that effectively conquered Europe and America.
The West loved the oriental mystery that Yamamoto emitted, and presumably Yamamoto loved that loud occidental ping of ringing tills? Wrong. Yamamoto has told several journalists throughout his career that he has never enjoyed the business and commerce of high fashion. His clothes bring this message across quite clearly, their subtlety and strong sense of inner rest are a fashion reaction to human exploitation and global unsustainability.
When Nicholas Coleridge interviewed Yohji for his 1980s hardback exposé The Fashion Conspiracy, he found a “Nepalese hippie hawking joss-sticks… Often [Yohji Yamamoto] meditates for twelve-hour stretches in his atelier, until his assistants worry he might never re-emerge.”
Yamamoto is so special as an individual, and so unique as a designer, that nothing can really dissolve him. Gianni Versace is possibly the only other famous 20th century designer who can be discussed as intellectually and in such philosophical depth.
When the newspapers like NYT announce that Yohji Yamamoto has filed for bankruptcy, what they mean is, the ugly conglomerate umbrella organisation that showcases and sells his designs is in financial trouble. I doubt Yohji himself cares. He’s probably studying the pond currents stirred by his koi fish, or preparing dinner for Azzedine Alaïa. Or have I too simply fallen into the trap of fashion fiction and orientalism?
As for the future of Ys…
Well, the collaborative project Y-3 is still around (although more in the Harvey Nics bargain buckets than on the racks) so perhaps Adidas will buy the brand out completely and energise it with their indestructible salability?
I’m sure this Topman/Primark dictation of wearing as many different bright colours as you have limbs is part of the climate that has threatened Yamamoto. Not that many teenagers previously bought his exclusive creations. Give it a couple of years, a staff turnover at a few fash mags, and I’m sure Yamamoto’s post-Hiroshima chic will be back in full nuclear force.