A Study in Fabric

April 26, 2015

by Gracia Ventus

Yohji Yamamoto

Yohji Yamamoto
Wearing: Yohji Yamamoto Y's jacket and shirt; Comme des Garçons Tricot trousers; Celine heels

If there's anything we can count on the Japanese clothiers, it's their expertise in romanticising the passage of time. Unlike the equally-adept Italians who strive for perfect beauty in their various wools and cottons, the Japanese are more inclined to reconstruct age and experience in tangible textures.

In my experience, the more I begin to appreciate this alternative philosophy of textile manufacturing, the stronger my love for unconventional silhouettes grow. Conversely, there is a decline in my fondness for fashion that is entrenched in the showcase of overt sexuality and glamour. I maintain the opinion that mainstream definition and portrayal of sexy is one-dimensional, hence boring.

What got me truly fascinated with Japanese fabrics is its pragmatism. When the very fabric of the clothes are built upon humanity and humility, the garments are made on a similar vein of philosophy void of a need to impress. There is less emphasis on precision of tailoring and how tightly clothing should hug the body. When I wear some of my Comme des Garçons pieces I'd turn a blind eye to where the shoulder seams fall, or how my butt would look in that dress. I can wear a size XS or M and be okay with how both fit me even if they look different - as long as they're not falling off me. When it comes to Issey Miyake I pretty much disregard the sizing altogether. If it fits, I sits. I'm not saying it applies to all clothing, but on a slightly different tangent it might explain why the Japanese don't kid around with their one-size-fits-all clothing. They can really fit quite a large range of sizes with plenty of room to experiment with. We'd all just look rather different, and that's the beauty of it.

Maybe it shouldn't come as a surprise that the old guards and young graduates are now adopting large silhouettes. It's the new form of Minimalism - with a focus on volume and texture, but that will be a story for another time.

Yohji YamamotoYohji Yamamoto
Yohji Yamamoto


3 thoughts on “A Study in Fabric

  • Josephine

    by Josephine on April 26, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    There is however one restriction to the one-size-fits-all philosophy of Japanese designers: for long people ( like me) their clothes are often to small. I love wearing Japanese clothes, but they are often not made for the average Dutch woman. They look great on you, because you have the small Asian frame. There is one consolation: the Antwerp designers like Ann DeMeulemeester and MartinMargiela have a lot in common with Japanese fashion.

    • Gracia Ventus

      by Gracia Ventus on April 27, 2015 at 11:30 pm

      You’re quite right in the sense that there is always limitations to everything. Hence why I mentioned ‘a large range of sizes’, in relation to the sizing system of European dressmaking/tailoring approach. Perhaps this would be a good exercise/experiment in styling Japanese fashion that would work for your tall body.

      A European counterpart I can think of easily at the top of my head is actually Céline who has been churning out oversized silhouettes, and yes, Margiela as well. Not so much of Ann Demeulemeester though because she concentrates a lot of tailoring that fits a certain body shape.

  • Archana Paladugu

    by Archana Paladugu on April 27, 2015 at 12:33 am

    We live with set definitions of “flattering” which i think Yohji breaks. Although over the years, he has relaxed his views on drape. This decade, i see lot more silks used to make drapy dresses when compared to his first 30 years of his work. But his vision with fabric is unparalleled. I havent heard of anyone speak of fabric with such spirituality. He is a true craftsman. I often wondered if its a Japanese trait but more of modern Japan is seem to experience, less i am inclined to think this way. The way of kimono seems to be fading.

    Your words for this essay – beautiful. Well written.


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