From fashion designer to victim: Yamamoto files for bankruptcy

Japanese label blames recession for sales slump after amassing debts of £42m

The recession claimed another fashion victim yesterday as Yohji Yamamoto, the cult Japanese house, announced it was filing for bankruptcy.

With debts of about ¥6bn (£42m), the company blamed slow sales and a decrease in demand during a time of general economic slowdown. "I concentrated too hard on making clothes and left too much responsibility on higher management," the crestfallen designer told a press conference in Tokyo yesterday, only a week after he had presented his spring/summer 2010 collection to fashion press and buyers in Paris.

"But my biggest obligation is to keep making world-beating products. I'll continue to do that until the business is wound up."

The label, founded in 1972, will continue trading internationally for the time being. But Yamamoto is the latest company to suffer in a string of bankruptcy claims in Japan, where high-end fashion retail is being squeezed by a boom in budget clothing.

This week, Versace announced that it was liquidating its operations in the country, 30 years after opening its first shop there. And last year, Louis Vuitton scrapped plans for a 12-floor megastore in Ginza, Tokyo's busiest and most ex-clusive shopping district.

While the homegrown budget brand Uniqlo chalked up a record year, Yama-moto has seen its market shrink.

"The company has also suffered because of the fall in consumption and excess levels of debt," a statement released said. The company also blamed the strength of the Yen for its plight.

Yamamoto, who turned 66 last week, first arrived on the international fashion circuit in 1981. Along with Rei Kawakubo at Comme des Garçons, he spearheaded the avant garde movement then emerging from Japan.

His label is known for its unstructured and deconstructed tailoring, inspired by traditional Japanese men's workwear, and for its plain collections solely in black, which earned the moniker "Hiroshima chic" within the fashion industry.

Such was the enormity of Yamamoto's and Kawakubo's colour choice, when other brands were firmly focussed on bright shades and conspicuous status, that the women who bought and wore their pieces were known as "the crows" in Japan.

Often described as "intelligent clothes", Yamamoto attracts intellectual customers who appreciate the hidden complexities of his work. Such complexities and studied simplicity do not come cheap, of course, and the label's higher prices may have contributed to its insolvency.

Pieces are masculine in shape, often intended to conceal the feminine form in vast swathes of gabardine or loose weave cotton and muslin.

The look is tricky to pull off for most, and one that is jarring – and consciously so – in comparison with the current trend for a slim-line, body-conscious silhouette. Yamamoto once told The Independent that he was "scared" of women in high heels and red lipstick; his clothes are a more understated take on female power dressing, favoured by the likes of Tilda Swinton and the architect Zaha Hadid.

The company's decline could be attributed to the vogue for "it" pieces, recognisable status buys that were big business before the economy plunged. Although fashion now favours a more inconspicuous look, Yamamoto's clothes are almost too quiet; and his trademark "peasant shoes" don't have a matching price-tag.

The announcement comes after the French couture house Christian Lacroix went into administration in May. Yohji faces a similar problem: while he has diversified by taking on a number of collaborations, including a range for Adidas (which will continue), a lack of diversification into lucrative cosmetics and fragrance has contributed to his decline. Lacroix and Yamamoto embodied their brands and ploughed their creative visions into them, but did little to expand commercially. Sheikh Hassan Ben Ali al-Naimi , from the United Arab Emirates offered to take a majority share in Lacroix this week, which would push the designer into a minority shareholding; whether Yamamoto will seek a similar solution remains to be seen.

His focus on clothing may be artistically noble, and his fans as dedicated as any collectors, but fashion is a strange discipline and even the most avant garde of its number still need to make big money.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

    £64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

    Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

    £117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

    Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

    £117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

    Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

    £117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam