Yohji Yamamoto Talks About Y-3 and Modern Street Style Sportswear

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From afar, we look at Yohji Yamamoto in several lights. We see a fashion visionary that came to prominence over the course of the 1980s; a creative of legendary proportions that has won high accolades such as the Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon in Japan, the National Order of Merit in France, and a Master of Design Award from Fashion Group International. Every couple of months, we see a trendsetter that dresses half of the population under 25. At 70 years old, those are good places to have been, yet it’d be an egregious underestimation to call Yamamoto anything but in-tune. In fact, a conversation with Yamamoto reveals his close connection to youthful ideas, filtered with wisdom collected over the years. HYPEBEAST was lucky enough to briefly speak with Yamamoto shortly after he unveiled Y-3‘s Spring/Summer 2014 collection, which coincidentally, was presented around the time of the adidas imprint’s 10th anniversary. Without further ado, we present our conversation with the ever-graceful Yohji Yamamoto.

How did the original opportunity to work with adidas Y-3 arise? What was your perception of adidas before creating Y-3? What about after?

In Japan you see the three stripes everywhere, on trains and on the streets – high school kids and college students all wear adidas. It was more than surprising. It was more like, “How can I make my creative life without this?” That´s why I asked my assistant to call adidas. In the beginning we just wanted to borrow some ‘3 stripe’ trainers from adidas for my A/W 2001 show. I was sure that they would refuse and was pleasantly surprised when they said ‘yes.’ Then we started discussing with their designers how sportswear for the future would look, and decided that we would need high-tech fabrics, bright colors, fashionable silhouettes. In short, everything the full-price prêt-a-porter collections had. And that is how Y-3 came about. More things were added: accessories, hats, bicycles, footballs. The original has not changed – looking good, feeling good.

What do you think Y-3 has done to the world of fashion meets footwear?

Y-3 brings high-end fashion to the forefront of modern street style and hopefully, lets customers look chic and cool. The sports world and its technology seek for necessity, practically or functionality, attempting to reduce excess, while fashion is seeking the opposite. With Y-3 we gave a view to the future.

How would you define ‘Sportswear’? How does Y-3 fall into this definition, if at all?

When I walk around the shopping areas in Harajuku, Daikanyama or Aoyama in Tokyo, the young people look original and striking at first sight. But at the same time, they all look very similar. It is the responsibility of sportswear to break up this uniform style. Sportswear should create clarity in all the information overload of design that we are inundated with everyday.

What was your favorite design over these past 10 years?

Why do I have to choose… I love them all.

How does designing for Y-3 differ than from designing for your own label?

There is no interference between my Yohji Yamamoto collection and Y-3… a total free creative process, the two worlds are parallel… adidas is a very personal inspiration to me. It has enriched my creative life. It´s an exchange between different cultures, different ideas and most of all, it is teamwork.

In 2012, Y-3 was primarily based on a darker aesthetic that mainly relied on primary colors. What prompted such a distinct shift in this year’s collections, which have seen releases like the neon-inflected Qasa High earlier in the fall/winter season?

Black… Besides, the word black evokes ‘laziness,’ and color means ‘effort.’ Black is very important in all my collections. But if you go through my Y-3 collections, I used a lot of yellow, red, blue, pink, etc.

Have you ever related Y-3 to specific times in sports history? For instance, if it’s a big year in basketball, do you incorporate those into designs for the upcoming season?

For example, the S/S 2010 show celebrated the upcoming FIFA World Cup. When the soccer players score, the net swings into a beautiful shape. This inspired a series of laser-cut T-shirts and dresses that captured the same movement.­

Please describe the aesthetic direction of Spring/Summer 2014.

The theme was “Meaningless Excitement.” The title expresses both a critique and celebration of Internet culture — its heights and depths — as well as the relentless pursuit of the next big thing.

How does this differ from seasons in the past, in both footwear and apparel?

This season I collaborated with Peter Saville.

What do you think of music and fashion?

People call me a designer, but when I´m surrounded by designers and artists I don´t feel very relaxed. Musicians, such as guitarists, are the type of people I feel most comfortable with.


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