Thursday, 7 July 2011

Dressing for Yohji Yamamoto at the V&A "Fashion In Motion" catwalk

image courtesy of
Since 1999 the V&A have hosted a series of free catwalks as part of their long running "Fashion in Motion" events which coincide with current fashion exhibitions. The purpose is to give the public a chance to re-experience what is considered to be the current designer's "finest hour" through celebrating the designer's retrospective.

When we received the e-mail about this opportunity, there was no doubt in my mind to accept it and unfortunately Harriet was double-cast in a production of Little Voice on the Friday.  The fact that the Yojhi Yamamoto's actual Paris team was flying into London to make sure the show ran smoothly, which I admit made me quite nervous, was not the only reason this fashion show was different from previous shows I had dressed at. The fashion show, to mirror the Japanese designers 1999 collection, would be modelled by real-life couples. Previously couples were gathered off the streets of Paris, so the V&A made a search in London, in which most of the models picked ironically were French. Fate determining fashion, or is it that the French has a certain chic air which the English are unable to mirror?
Print with buddha, dogs, stars etc.
Image courtesy of Motilo blog

"Born in Tokyo, Yohji Yamamoto set up his own company Y’s Incorporated in 1972. His work has been fêted for challenging the conventions of fashion, the playful pieces feature asymmetric cuts and unusual silhouettes. His collections are also recognised for subverting gender stereotypes and have featured women wearing garments traditionally associated with menswear. Yamamoto's fabrics are central to his design practice and his textiles are created to specification often employing traditional Japanese dyeing and embroidery technique." (V&A)

The Models I dressed
Image courtesy of Polka Dot street style blog
Models are used to getting undressed in front of 30+ people they barely even know, it becomes part of  their norm, their job. Whereas everyone in the industry knows, and are used to seeing half-naked women and men around them and think nothing of it apart from it being their job, that real people can feel uncomfortable so you have to be "extra sensitive" i.e not ripping their clothes off if they only have 2 minutes to change. It's kind of funny that fashion shows are all about the clothes, yet for about half the time the clothes are not worn.

Yohji Yamamoto claims he creates 80% of the clothes, but the other 20% is solely shaped by the person wearing it, hence the reason why this show does not use the one concept percieved beauty in the fashion world which produces models of same heights, weights and looks. The attitude, undoubtedly, changes the style and the message that a person puts across. For example the photo above, her fresh-faced expression gives a certain elegance to a bright yellow, plastic blow-up skirt. It raises a question of do clothes transform the way we are or do we transform clothes?

Okay,  for instance take the numerous you I hear that Anne Hathaway is a "Style Star", yet all she does is put on an amazing haute couture gown pair it with simple diamond earrings, a slicked back bun and red lips, Old Hollywood style, and not even she can do that - it's her stylist Rachel Zoe! It's a formulae which will always result in a classic glamour, yet sometimes on the red carpet there's one person who steals the show, this is not solely down to the dress but also to the way they own that dress. That's what makes a good stylist a good stylist, making some-one feel fantastic in what they are wearing so they ooze confidence, the right attitude which creates a certain glow.

And yes, you do feel important going around the V&A with a badge on
I think all the models, by the fourth show, had got used to it as it pretty much becomes a routine and the changes are so fast their in and out of their clothes in minutes. A Royal College of Art MA graduate, Sarah, dressed the two French street-casted models. There were four catwalks throughout the day, with a prompt 10 o'clock start in which about 16 dressers carried the steamed 21 looks through the musuem to backstage. The looks had to be un-bagged and organised onto 8 rails infront of each model board displaying each look. I personally was assisting Marie, who had been a dresser at London Fashion Weekend with me but had the responsibility of backstage, where I sorted out each look with the appropriate accessories through the model board taken at the dress fitting previously. The models had a walk through and afterwards it was almost time for the 1st show at 1pm.

Throughout the catwalk shows we had to make sure all our models garments were steamed with no creases so that they were ready for the next show.

It must seem terrible to talk about food,  but if you've been to the V&A, you'll know how nice the food is. The whole team had sandwiches for lunch, and salmon with couscous and salad for dinner. Again, it was an valuable experience and I'd like to say thankyou to the V&A and the PR team and I recommend anyone to volunteer to dress, especially when you are able to see such a dynamic fashion house up close.

Below, some of my favourite looks we saw backstage...

The candy men - the definition of colour co-ordination.
"When I started a men's line in Paris, my message was very simple: let's be outside. Let's be far from our suits and ties. Let's be far from businessmen. Let's be vagabonds."

The unisex sexy
"...strong yet subtle at the same time, is essentially more seductive. The more she hides and abandons her femininity, the more it emerges from the very heart of her existence."

The Pumped-up Skirt
"I'm searching for a new proportion. What interests me is the 'space' between the person wearing the clothes and the clothes themselves - the airness, the movement, the silhouette."

The Yohji Yamamoto exhibition

In all honesty the exhibition could've been better laid out, as there was no sense of direction for a visitor as the clothes were all over the space (as pictured below). As well as the fact you could see the whole exhibition at a glance made it very hard to enjoy looking at one item because you wanted to see everything at once!
However there is no denying the clothes were captivating and magnificant in their design and cut, the way Yohji Yamamoto explores the 3rd dimension through pattern cutting makes this exhibition definitely worth visiting.

Yellow strapless silk dress and oversized coolie hat covered with draped silk. S/S 1997
All photographs courtesy of

Left: Black ruffled cape and black dress with crinoline in homage to Critsobel Balenciage S/S 1999
Right: Hound's-tooth jacket with puffed lower sleeves and long skirt in homage to Dior. S/S 1999

More from Fashion In Motion

Fashion in Motion - Kenzo


Giles Deacon

Gareth Pugh

To find out more about who has shown since 1999 visit the V&A's Fashion In Motion page.
Note - Watch the show's live on the V&A Channel

E xx

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