Sartorial Cubism at Yohji Yamamoto

Yamamoto had some rare words to say before the show today, in the form of a small paper included with the invitation — which was, incidentally, a glittery mirrored compact pendant. It featured a discreet section of a nude female body, with the simple text: “Hommage 1. M. Cubisme 2. Mon cher Azzedine.” And the show was exactly that — something that, in the wrong hands, could have been a terrible failure, but in the masterful hands of Yamamoto, was mesmerizing.

His careful handling of cubism was not the brash Picasso/Braque kind we are so used to seeing, but rather a sartorial version of Jean Metzinger, the artist who painted Le Goûter in 1911, which critic Andre Salmon nicknamed ‘The Mona Lisa of Cubism.’ Metzinger was committed to ensuring people understood the past in his modernity, and Yamamoto, too, eased us into his new vision of the coat that could be seen from all angles at once. Innumerable sleeves, and collars fell about in unexpected ways, and at first glance it looked as though the models were wearing many coats, but no, it was simply a devilish trick in the construction. In Le Goûter we see the cup from above and profile at the same time, and the same feeling was created here with collars slung low on the back becoming belts, and sleeves so square that they defied being sleeves at all. 

When it did segue into the homage to his dear Azzedine, the feeling was more one of color and textural shift than of obvious body-hugging Alaïa proportions. Brown leather, beloved of Alaïa, was so alien to the Yamamoto runway that it screamed Azzedine, and a boxy jacket could have been one Alaïa himself made in 1984. It was very touching, and couldn’t have been a more fitting tribute from one master to another.