Yohji Yamamoto: 'My desire was to make sportswear chic'

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Yohji Yamamoto pioneered designer and sports-label collaborations. As his Y-3 line for Adidas notches up a decade, he talks to Rebecca Gonsalves

Current fashion may owe more than a tip of the hat to sportswear, but the two design disciplines have not always had such a symbiotic relationship. When Yohji Yamamoto first began designing a collection for Adidas in 2002, the collaboration was a pioneering one, presaging as it did the current blurring of boundaries. A decade since the release of the first collection, Y-3 celebrates the marriage of Yamamoto's avant-garde genius and the innovation of Adidas.

“We opened a new market segment, a niche for others to follow,” says Yamamoto. “And even now after all this time, there is an even greater demand for a modern interpretation of sportswear. Y-3 is unique in the market and not comparable to any other brand or design cooperation. It is a strong examination on the blend of sport and style,” he continues, “and the tension caused by mixing tradition with all that is modern, creating a unique contemporary feeling.” Perhaps one reason the pairing is so successful is the freedom to experiment that Yamamoto has been given – such as his reinterpretation of the Adidas three stripe motif that has been emblazoned in varying widths on sleeves, trouser legs, pleated skirts and more. “I always like to play with an ironic take on logos in the Y-3 collection,” he says.

“My desire was, and still is, to make sportswear elegant and chic. The collaboration with Adidas is not only important in my creative experience: it gave life to something entirely new. It's like a child born of two parents with an incredibly different DNA. The result is remarkably interesting. There is no interference between my Yohji Yamamoto collection and Y-3… a totally free creative process, the two worlds are parallel.” Yohji Yamamoto was born in Tokyo in 1943. “I was born in the ruin,” he says in the 2011 documentary Yohji Yamamoto: This Is My Dream, which followed the production of a Y-3 collection. “I had no memory about Japanese culture because those things were all destroyed. So maybe this is my root, the ruined Tokyo.” In 1969, Yamamoto graduated from Bunkafukuso Gakuin school of fashion in Tokyo, establishing Y's Company Ltd in 1972 before presenting his first eponymous collection in 1981 in Paris. In 2002, continuing a collaboration that had begun with the designer creating a sell-out limited edition line of trainers, Yamamoto was appointed creative director of Y-3 which made its debut in Paris in October of that year, to immediate acclaim.

In 2004, the brand opened its first in-store boutique in Taipei, Taiwan and in the same year created the first Y-3 campaign with British photographer Matt Jones, whose illustrious footsteps have been followed by Mario Sorrenti, Alasdair McLellan and, for the current season, Belgian photographer Pierre Debusschere.

For spring/summer 13, Yamamoto commissioned bright, graphic prints from Chikami Hayashi, the imperial print maker to the Japanese royal family, who designed the hibiscus prints of the first collection, but Yamamoto said this was about “walking backward into the future” and imaging the next decade rather than getting caught up in the past.

“Y-3 brings high-end fashion to the forefront of modern street style and hopefully lets customers look chic and cool,” explains Yamamoto of the balance between form and function that is an innate consideration when designing the line. “It balances fashion's elegance with sports comfort and functionality, attempting to reduce excess, while fashion is seeking the opposite. There are many meetings to develop the collection together but our working rhythm is the same.

“Adidas and I – we're just like each other. Japanese and German people are intelligent sorts. Based on this common character, we have mutual respect: there is nothing that can't be solved. Y-3 naturally developed and grew the way children develop and grow. More things were added to the collection, accessories, hats footballs… It's an exchange between different cultures, different ideas and most of all it is teamwork.”

The brand continues to develop under Yamamoto's leadership, with a debut men's fragrance and sunglasses in collaboration with Linda Farrow new for this 10 year anniversary season.

“Fashion always relates to current influences,” explains Yamamoto of the way that he has changed the direction of travel for many in his industry. “Sports influence became stronger and stronger in the past. We live in a sports and body conscious age – with Y-3 we gave a view to the future. Adidas is a very personal inspiration to me. It has enriched my creative life. I became free: in my mainline there are many boundaries and rules, but in Y-3 I work without any taboos.

“I don't design for a specific type of people,” says the designer. “I hope people wearing my clothing are people who are happy to try fashion and follow their feelings.

“It's not necessary to study who and how to wear my clothing. Just follow your own instinct,” he says.

Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
VIDEO
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
News
Russia's President Vladimir Putin gives his annual televised question-and-answer session
peopleBizarre TV claim
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Life & Style
life
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Apprentice IT Technician

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

    1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

    £153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

    1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

    Sales Associate Apprentice

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

    Day In a Page

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit