#SuzyPFW: Yohji Yamamoto in Mourning; Undercover’s Heart-rending Innocence

Yohji: Lest we forget

Even before the Yohji Yamamoto show reached its dark heart, there was a sense of mourning, as Christoph von Weyhe, the artist who was the life partner of Azzedine Alaïa, sat in a central position with those who worked with the late designer.

Then there was the stillness, as figures in black tailored clothes, but worn loosely in layers, crossed the stone floor with its intersecting white pillars. This could only be an homage. And after the show, that ended with Yohji doffing his hat and bowing towards the Alaïa ‘family’, the Japanese designer could not hold back his tears as he greeted privately his mourning friends.

Every single outfit in the show was black – except for one leather jacket in walnut brown, which wrapped and lapped the body; another darker brown corset-like piece of moulded leather made it half way around the midriff; and a cropped top had an inky-blue collar. Homages to Alaïa? Almost certainly. But Yohji also suggested that the Cubism and abstraction of Pablo Picasso’s work was shadowed in layers of coats and off-kilter wraps, while Surrealism was suggested in the model’s faces, with one eye black and the other white.

Yohji is now one of the last of the Mohicans – those few designers who for 30 or 40 years have gone their own ways, not working for other brands, but staunchly staying independent. Yohji has showed his dogged belief in decency, caressing the woman’s body with drapes of black cloth – cinching it this season with leather – and offering wearable and desirable clothes for the independent woman of this millennium. The show was both an homage and a statement of female decency.

Undercover: The end of innocence

The faces were sweet, very young and innocent and their school ‘uniform’ a mix of sweatshirts and torn-at-the-knee jeans interspersed with more formal blazers. On scarlet rubber boots were printed the words: ‘We are Infinite’, quoting Stephen Chbosky’s coming-of-age novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

It was not until the first rumble of thunder on the soundtrack – using the music from the film of the novel – that a sense of foreboding intervened at the Undercover show. There was something ugly about the blood-red ski hats and gloves that appeared among the normality of checked skirts and transparent raincoats. Then came the message seen only from the back of the model who walked through the transparent tent: ‘unbroken innocence’ it read.

Backstage, Undercover designer Jun Takahashi denied – and even seemed puzzled by the idea that he might have been referring to the recent massacre of the innocents inside America’s school gates.

“I was inspired by 1980s school dramas and TV shows, so the Stranger Things series was kind of that,” said Takahashi. He referred also to the fact that Sadie Sink, the Stranger Things actress who had walked in the show, also models for Nike, whose shoes the designer used.

But was that really all – just chance that the deep-thinking Japanese designer might have chosen the subject of youth and its loss of innocence? That theme played out in the show with a switch, after the thunder rumbles, into all-black outfits. That was until the sun came out again bringing with it rainwear in brighter colours.

The show left a strong feeling, as always with Takahashi, that something deeper and darker lies behind his apparently simple sportswear. And especially this season.