I met Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yanagisawa at Tokyo Fashion
World Expo in April, 2015. He was proudly, yet modestly presenting his unique
designs. I was introduced to his work by him and his charming assistant Rei,
and I found his creations very intriguing. Here I am meeting them again in
their studio in Tokyo,
excited to hear more about the designer's creative process, inspirations and
The inspiration of Yohji's work is
deeply rooted in Japanese beautiful tradition, and more specifically
"wabi-sabi" and Japanese monochrome ink painting.
I have only recently
discovered where my inspiration comes from. I think, my essential mind is
coming from Japanese traditional mind called wabi-sabi: I am interested in
things which are old, damaged, kind of decadent things. They don't have to be
gorgeous or beautiful. They are actually unsophisticated, shy style. I can
find beauty in these. I love textures you can see in nature. I like randomness,
I am also inspired by traditional Japanese monochrome ink painting.
Yohji studied calligraphy when he was a child, and has had a long-time experience and
interest in using ink. Initially starting his calligraphy lessons upon his
parents' request, very soon he developed a great understanding and love for
this very special activity. Nowadays the designer uses these skills in a
different way- he invented his very own technique of dyeing the fabrics for his
clothes. For that he uses calligraphy ink in which he soaks the fabrics for an
hour. Then he squeezes the fabric and hangs it to dry for a day. Next, he puts the
fabric in hot water to remove the wax, and after that washes it in the washing
machine with soap, to remove the extra ink. Finally, dries it again.
"What I like the most in this
method of dyeing is randomness. Every time the pattern I create is different.
So every final piece of my clothes is unique and cannot be repeated."
Another very important moment in
his work as an artist is Japanese language, and more specifically- the Kanji
used in Japanese writing system:
"I am very interested in kanji and
especially in old kanji that are not used any more. I think they are beautiful
and I would like to revive and represent that beauty through my work. I first
choose one word/ kanji for my collection theme. Then I search for interesting
kanjis deriving from that one and I use them as names for each one of my
pieces. For example, my latest collection is called "Ame“ or "Rain" in
English. I selected other words associated with it and I transformed their meanings
in some elements you can see in my clothes. Like these rain drops."
Please enjoy the rest of my
interview with Yohji Yanagisawa:
Yohji, what does
"fashion" mean to you?
How I understand fashion is:
clothes come first, then the person. Fashion has a power to change people a
lot, stimulates people's creativity, creates a mood. So I want to make not just
clothes. I regard clothes as pieces of art that you can have wherever you go.
For example, when I go out I can't bring with me this beautiful painting
(pointing at a painting on the wall). Fashion is the best way to express my
artistic ideas and inspiration.
How do you describe your ideal
My ideal client is a creative,
artistic person, who is familiar with my concept and love for Japanese
tradition and know what makes my fashion different.
Speaking of business side, how are
you going to promote your work? How are you going to reach that Ideal client?
I would like to promote my brand
internationally, and I think making online shop is a good start. I already
created our official website. I did it by myself. We actually like doing
everything by ourselves: from dyeing the fabrics to hand stamping and cutting
the clothes' tags. We enjoy it and we hope to still have time to do it when we
get really busy.
What are your goals, where do you
see your brand in 5 years, for example?
We think globally. We want to
introduce our fashion and Japanese tradition to people from all over the world.
That desire actually motivated me to start my brand. And we will work very hard
towards our goal!