YAMAMOTO & YOHJI

YOHJI YAMAMOTO BOUTIQUE, RUE CAMBON, PARIS; AN EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK.

Contribution by Sophie Hicks. Photographs by Milo Keller and Johannes Marburg. Rizzoli. November 2014

“Yohji Yamamoto is a name I first heard on the lips of Joseph Ettedgui. We were in the basement of his shop in Sloane Street, the one designed by Jan Kaplicky when he worked at Norman Foster. It must have been about 1980. I was a young fashion editor and Joseph was very influential and he was sparkling and enthusing about this new Japanese designer he had spotted.

Yohji Yamamoto swiftly went on to take Paris by storm, introducing (together with Rei Kawakubo) a new way of thinking about clothes and liberating us in the western world from the constraints we had imposed upon ourselves. He made it possible for us to open our eyes and see fashion differently. And it was a relief. It was calming and exciting at the same time.

Yohji went on to create excitement, drama, simplicity. He provoked. He had spotlights shone on him. Through all his experiences, he became an absolute master of his craft.

Fast forward to 2005, when Irène Silvagni, Yohji’s right hand woman, asked me to come to Paris to see him. The reason was kept intriguingly vague and only emerged gradually during our conversation.

To be asked by this brilliant man to collaborate on an important store felt like a great honor.

Yohji’s way of working is rather formal and proper. I feel very comfortable with this, perhaps because I’m British. He is a very respectful person and our meetings were beautifully correct. I felt I behaved better in his company!

To get started, I studied him—I hope discreetly—preparing a show. I wanted to see how he interacted with other people and to absorb the atmosphere around him. I wanted to work out what made him tick. I find that it is only by attempting to get inside the head of a designer that I can design a store that feels right.

I knew I must surprise Yohji. I also wanted him to feel relaxed as well as excited when he saw the finished store. It felt to me like a big responsibility and it could easily go wrong.

I decided to show Yohji my ideas in the form of a book which took many weeks to prepare and refine. My presentation took place in Tokyo in sweltering August heat and I had taken along my daughter Edie (now a famous and charming model but then a very moody teenager).

I cannot remember if I made my presentation in French or in English. I do remember, though, explaining everything in great detail and that, as I did so, Yohji remained silent and quite expressionless. It was a little unnerving and the sight of Edie at the other end of the table, surely thinking “Can we please go now?,” didn’t help. However, I pressed on.

At the end he said one word: “Faabrus.”

-“What?”

“Faabrus.”

I had no idea what he was saying or even what language he was speaking in.

In the end his MD had to translate: “Mr. Yamamoto is telling you ‘fabulous!’”

— SOPHIE HICKS

 

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