How to judge the Chinese designers? Is Yohji Yamamoto right?

By Christine Tsui

Translated by Rachel Wang

Recently an essay about the comment of Chinese designers by Yohji Yamamoto seemingly struck a chord, and even several of my friends have re-posted the article. However, it may contain some misleading descriptions and analysis, so I would like to post my view on it below.

The original source:

How do you judge the Chinese designers? Yohji Yamamoto: It May be Inappropriate to say on TV.

Utterly getting rid of Japanese style?

In the original text, Yohji Yamamoto holes that, in the 1980s, he never identified himself as Japanese, and eliminated any Japanese elements in his design.

On this issue, we can refer to the book The Fashion Conspiracy published in 1989. Besides, in the book of Japanese Designers’ Fashion Revolution in Paris, written by a Japanese author in 2005 when Yohji Yamamoto had just built his fame, an interview of him and Rei Kawakubo recorded can be the evidence.

In the interview, the two designers were organizing their first show in Paris. In the consideration of the deliberately variation from the typical French fashion, they sought for the inspiration from the dressing of Japanese peasants at last. At that time, few of Europeans had met Japanese peasants, so it was definitely a crafty way of innovation.

They were shrewd indeed, utilizing a series of different design strategies from French ones. Symmetry was highly valued in French fashion, so they designed in dissymmetry; colorful in French fashion, pale colors of black and grey only in their designs; exquisiteness in French, rough looks in their design, which is also out of Japanese appreciation, deliberately to show the semi-finished dressing on the stage; emphasizing the curves of women in French, covering the body in their looks; luxury in French styles, simplicity in their styles.

In a word, the design strategy that won the fame for them was indeed partially from the Japanese culture and aesthetics.

How to interpret nationalism?

1.  The interpretation of nationalism in the original text is much narrow.

Actually, nationalism matters in all the countries around the world. “It is the USA that values nationalism most, instead of China.” The only discrepancy lies in the various educations and expressions.

2.  In the fashion industry, Chinese designers are thought to be heavily burdened by the traditional elements, and the western designers are free from it.

However, this ideology may come from the lack of historical knowledge. In the fashion history, the designers from the US, Italy and Britain once competed with the French designers, aiming to overwhelm the French and spread the US fashion, Italian fashion or British fashion in the world. What they utilized to break the ceiling were exactly their local cultures.

3.  “Dynamic is a common feature for all cultures of, instead of being still.”

In the dynamic evolution, exchanges and influences never stop, which makes cultures consistently interpenetrate. In the latest 100 years, western fashions affect the east, but 100 years ago, the eastern fashion was the symbol of luxury and power in the west.

4.  Nationalism is not an error. We should embrace all sorts of nationalism with different cultural positions, but not to be supercilious or self-conceited standing on our own nationalism.

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