Yohji Yamamoto: Showspace
Yohji Yamamoto was quite clear about his feelings on fashion exhibitions. He hates them. They are to the Japanese designer "where fashion goes to die" shored up in white rooms behind rope and glass. So when Live Archives decided to stage an exhibition on Yamamoto they chose to do something different – to display his clothes on live models so visitors can see the designs come to life.
From 31 July to 8 August between 13.00-19.00, curator Jeffrey Horsley has created a contemporary couture salon where visitors can try on clothes by Yamamoto or make a selection to be presented on a live model. Live Archives houses a vast collection of contemporary fashion and for this exhibition they are showcasing over 60 of Yamamoto's pieces. There's a cotton cut-work ensemble from Yamamoto’s SS83 collection, a shibori-detail kimono from SS95, and blouse from SS05. Visitors can even buy selected items.
Because spoke to Jeffrey to discover more about the unique approach to this exhibition.
What is this exhibition about for you?
From my perspective the exhibition is as much about how fashion can be displayed and experienced as the clothes themselves or Yohji Yamamoto. It was such a challenge to come up with an exhibition strategy for a designer who's on record saying he hates exhibitions. Using live models to display the clothes seems so in-line with Yohji's thoughts – he thinks clothes need to be seen on a living body. Even though Yohji has been exhibited many times around the world I think this show will be unique in using live models – I've only been able to do this because the clothes are from a private collection.
Was there something very particular you wanted to communicate about Yohji's work?
Not so specific to Yohji, but related to his idea that he makes clothes to be worn – I wanted to explore the idea that fashion exhibitions don't need to focus so much on pieces that are made primarily for runway effect – those made to grab press attention. There's some extraordinary items in the show but they could all, easily be worn. And many of them have been. Because visitors can get so close to the close garments – even try them on themselves if they'd like to, they can have a really direct experience of the garments, feel the fabric, it's weight and drape, and explore some of Yohji's incredible pattern cutting and construction techniques.
You have 60 archive pieces – can you tell me a little about some of the pieces and the stories behind them?
There are so many amazing pieces but a few I can tell you about; a beautiful black cotton dress that's a take on Dior's famous New Look, but rather than a complex internal structure the skirt is held away from the body, at the hip, by two cleverly constructed pockets; a complete set, skirt, top jacket, of white cotton cut-work made for spring-summer 1983, a really iconic ensemble that is a white version of the tattered black looks that made Yohji's name in the '80s; a plain black trench coat that looks so simple, but the fabric has such an exquisite weight that the coat falls perfectly.
Do you know anything about where the pieces were found?
Hoana Poland, founder of Live Archives has been collecting directional fashion since the mid-08s. She's always been interested in Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garçons particularly and has built up a collection over the years. The material is collected from lots of different sources – but we can't say where!
What's your personal connection to Yohji's work?
As an exhibition-maker specialising in fashion he's obviously such an influential force and I've followed his work since the '80s. Maybe as much through the image-making around his work, Nick Knight, M/M Paris and so on...
How did you get involved with curating for Live Archives?
I did a fashion project for the Barbican Art Gallery last summer and Live Archives were involved in that. We talked about the archive and I was really interested. Once I saw the collection I was completely won over. As an exhibition-maker it's amazing to have access to such high-quality material without the restrictions that are imposed on institutional collections.
A live video-stream from the Yohji Yamamoto: Showspace exhibition preview will be broadcast on live-archives.london today.
Visit the Live Archives at 81 Mare Street London, E8 4RG