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After graduating from Keio University with a law degree, Yohji Yamamoto realized that he was not interested in law.
“I didn’t want to join mainstream society,” he says. “So I said to my mom after I graduated… ‘I want to help you.'”
She agreed to let him work in her tailoring shop in Kabukicho, an entertainment district in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, and learn from tailoring assistants if he enrolled in Bunka Fashion College, now famous for training creators such as Kenzo Takada, Junya Watanabe and Yamamoto himself. .
After graduating, Yamamoto established a small ready-to-wear business that slowly acquired buyers in all major cities of Japan. This success eventually led him to Paris, where his signature tailored and draped in oversized silhouettes created an aesthetic earthquake at Paris Fashion Week in 1981.
Since then, Yamamoto has developed a cult following of loyalists who swear by his cutting-edge designs. “I don’t work in the mainstream,” he says. “I work in the lateral flow.”
This week on The BoF Podcast, we revisit Imran Amed’s rare interview with the legendary Japanese designer about his career and the mindset designers need to succeed.
- Yamamoto says the increasingly fast pace of the fashion industry has come at the expense of true creativity. “For me, the fashion business has become a money business,” he said. “I felt like I was losing my competitors year after year.”
- Yamamoto thinks modern technology can be a distraction. “When I speak with young designers, I [tell] that they shut down your computer,” he said. “If you really want to see real things, real beauty, you have to walk there.”
- Yamamoto believes it’s a designer’s job to fully immerse themselves in design. “If you want to create something, keep resisting the mediocrity of ordinary things. It is the work of a lifetime. Are you ready to sacrifice yourself to create something?