Black Beauty: Yohji Yamamoto Fall 2017

The last guests were still taking their seats when the first model exited to total silence, with lowered lights — a typical Yamamoto move. He has been working more and more internally for the last few seasons, with self-penned soundtracks, and personally painted applications, giving us poetic moments to pause and take in his quiet genius.

Save for a few loose threads and the occasional brushstroke, the show was entirely black. The paint was loose and free, and when it was used to highlight the concertina pleats, it looked like the loose barbs of a peacock’s feather. The complex pleating and ruching looked effortless. Gravity-defying horizontal knife pleats cascaded around the models, holding together pristine forms — a feat the designer surely worked on tirelessly, only to reveal it in such a casual way.

But then that’s the beauty of Yamamoto’s particular brand of minimalism — so called not for his stupefying control of technique, but relating to the first use of the word, coined to describe the 1913 painting by Kasimir Malevich of a black square on white background. Malevich’s own explanation of the work — “It is from zero, in zero, that the true movement of being begins” — could be Yamamoto articulating his sartorial evolutions.

And this is exactly where we find ourselves with each new season at Yohji Yamamoto. Watching the clothes and the designer go through a kind of rebirth, a return to zero, to re-ignite the being. Or maybe it is indeed more simple, and we should look back to Yamamoto’s own words in 2011’s My Dear Bomb, in which he wrote, “Above all black says this: ‘I don’t bother you — don’t bother me.'”

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