Yohji Yamamoto was 15 in 1958 when Elvis Presley, the man of the moment, released the hit “Trouble”. The song, which includes the lyrics “Because I’m evil, my middle name is misery (yeah, yeah) / Well I’m evil, so don’t mess with me”, was included on the soundtrack of the the designer’s spring 2023 men’s show, just like the elegiac “Danny Boy”.
Whether or not the playlist was intended as a “breadcrumb trail,” there are few other clues to follow to figure out the meaning of the collection, if any. Sometimes a suit is just a suit. For several seasons, Yamamoto has used his masculine looks like blackboards or empty walls that he “tags” with fragments and phrases. “What are you made of? “The Shitty Life” and “I Miss the Rules So Much” were some of the singles from this season. The last could be read as a mantra; Yamamoto, a rebel with a cause, has always gone his own way and continues to do so as he nears 80.
However, this collection was as much about fabrics and materialization as it was about construction. Yamamoto’s palette was exceptionally vivid, and there were almost psychedelic appliqués mixed with kaleidoscopic effect prints, and artfully patched suits on an ivory background. Layering is key to the Yohji look and this season pleated half skirts and aprons have been worn with baggy trousers or incorporated into outerwear.
The models, not all of whom were young girls, had gray streaks in their hair. Could it be Yamamoto attacking the taboo around age that persists in fashion? More generally, time is an important theme in his work, and the creator is engaged in a dialogue with the past (see last season’s Dickensian tale), but in a way that carries the lore forward. Sometimes it does this by combining elements of East and West, other times it has been achieved by means of “working from within”, i.e. rethinking and rework the traditional seam. Yamamoto designs aren’t just different, they’re built differently. You could just say that this collection was bad (meaning good) to the bone.