It was 40 years ago this year that Yohji Yamamoto debuted on the Paris runway. Few designers let an anniversary of that magnitude go uncelebrated, but unlike many of his peers, Yamamoto is committed to his own point of view and unperturbed by the fluctuations of the industry.
But at a spry 77 he’s not averse to change—or to humor. Speaking about his concerns around global warming after the show, he pointed to the collection’s short skirts. “It’s the first time I’ve done minis,” he said with a chuckle.
There were also open necklines and bare arms—the better to dress in hotter weather—and natural fibers like linen and cotton. Those fabrics gave the collection a more casual mien that usual, but the draping, twisting, tucking, and pleating that are the Yohji signatures were far from workaday.
The opening dresses were elegant in their bias-cut asymmetry. Though they glided out on sneakers and other flat shoes, they could easily stand up to higher heels should the occasion require.
A group of black trenches followed. They were more orderly, but they weren’t conventional, with their short sleeves and dramatic storm flaps. Ever the contrarian, Yamamoto paired the minis with understated, rather plain button-downs.
They were followed by a couple of shapely black-and-white jackets worn with stirrup leggings (both very now and very then) and a truly lovely series of dresses in cascades of expanding and collapsing draped volumes, some in mixed prints.
The show ended with a trio of models in hoop skirts with exposed undercarriages. They conjured a pair of collections from peak-era Yamamoto a little over 20 years ago, only where those hoop skirts were famously made with inflatable rafts or bamboo that looked light enough to float, these were crisscrossed with metal bars.
We’re living through heavy times, but for the length of the show Yamamoto’s innate grace could make you forget.