According to Victoria and Albert museum, Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto “became internationally renowned in the early eighties for challenging traditional notions of fashion by designing garments that seemed oversized, unfinished, played with ideas of gender or fabrics not normally used in fashionable attire such as felt or neoprene. Other works revealed Yamamoto’s unusual pattern cutting, knowledge of fashion history and sense of humour. His work is characterised by a frequent and skilful use of black, a colour which he describes as ‘modest and arrogant at the same time”.

I have never seen the work of Yohji Yamamoto with my own eyes before so I looked forward to learning about this famous Japanese fashion designer.

As we entered the room, we were ‘greeted’ by a sticky sheet of plastic, instead of red carpet, on the floor. I am not sure what it was for, perhaps to get rid of the dirt from our dirty shoes so that it would not ruin the light grey rubber on the floor? It could also be a sharp reminder that we should now pay attention to texture.

Over 60 creations of Yamamoto were displayed on mannequins together in one room with double height headroom (Gallery 38). It was flooded with bright white light- Together with the decorative steel scaffoldings, it felt informal and welcoming. Visitors were allowed to wander around freely. As the garments were not kept in glass boxes, they could check out the details in close distance. They were not supposed to, but a lot of them could not help themselves from touching the garments. Apparently no photography or even sketching was allowed. Many still did so but the security guards were not that bothered to say anything.> ” />

One side of the long wall was painted black and was filled with TVs, showing clips of various fashion shows of Yohji Yamamoto. It was a good idea and properly looked/ sounded good on paper. However, the exhibition designer overlooked the fact that the bright light in the room created a strong reflection and this made it very hard to watch the videos on the screen. On the day we went, I noticed that not that many visitors stayed and watched them. It was not a comfortable setting.

If I were a fashion designer/ student, I probably would have been delighted by the opportunity to see and scrutinise the clothes, based on what I have already known about this designer. However, I am not- I had hoped that I would learn more about the designer and his talents in fabric, stitching and design. Most of the displays (Videos and garments) were displayed in a minimal manner. Unlike most themed exhibitions in galleries like Tate Modern, no audio guide was on offer. There was simply not enough information/ guidance to explain what is good about Yohji Yamamoto in details. It is a good niche exhibition for those who have already known Yamamoto. It is not a successful exhibition to introduce him. Disappointingly, I did not come out feeling inspired at all.

Comparing to the not so successful installation in the main space, the satellite spaces were much more interesting. 6 sets of Yamamoto‘s creation were ‘hidden’ in different parts of the museum. Paid visitors were given a map to find them. That was fun! I discovered new spaces of Victoria and Albert Museum that I did not even know it existed! For example: the whole Norfolk House Music Room (photo below) was moved to V&A and rebuilt! Ok, I was supposed to look at Yamamoto‘s dresses in that room but the former was far more striking. And do you know that V&A has a huge room full of small ceramics, which was flooded with natural light from the roof? It was the room next to another set of
Yamamoto‘s creation.

*All photos are from Victoria and Albert Museum website

Yohji Yamamoto Exhibition
Victoria and Albert Musuem
Until 10 July 2011