Tokyo fashion shook this week, not to a bombastic runway, but to the news that Yoshikazu Yamagata, a man whose conceptualization of fashion had long shunned them, had actually made clothes – clothes to be worn. For those unfamiliar with the world of Yamagata’s Writtenafterwards you would do well to have a look at his work at his fashion school Coconogacco and the recent Zetsumei Exhibition, as well as his last full fashion show which are all united under the manifesto that the purpose of fashion is not to create individual clothes as such, but moreover that fashion is a by-product of a context which the designer has created. This sounds like a concept restricted to the kind of fashion people like to giggle at, but if you take the cult of Rick Owens or Julius, sub-cultures such as punk and mod, or even the constructions of luxury lifestyle branding or celebrity culture, it is a theory that transfers very neatly.
Writtenafterwards has taken this approach to dizzying heights in the past, often requiring 3 or 4 exhibitions and shows to articulate a single context, and even then, because so much of Yamagata’s world is Japan-centric a degree of explanation is required to be understood abroad, and while occasionally a product is created as a by-product of his process, these have only extended to back-packs, clothes pegs and rugs in the past. In short, the idea of this brand creating real clothes, and furthermore, a complete collection was a shock to the industry at large, and no-one knew quite what to expect.
Given that many have been keen to dub Yamagata the voice of his generation of Japanese fashion, he was understandably cautious with what he showed and how he showed it, choosing to hold a closed exhibition announced at short notice almost 2 weeks after the official week was over. For someone who was always happy to be taken along for the ride in the Writtenafterwards world, it was quite the unfamiliar feeling to see his creations with no artifice to hide behind and even be asked what I thought and if I had any suggestions as it dawned that this was an actual commercial venture – something unthinkable a year ago. Given this new trajectory it is no surprise to see him naming it a sub-line “Written By”, in the same vein as Yohji has Y’s or Comme des Garcons’ any number of commercial off-shoots.
Walking around the showroom I almost expected there to be some trick at work, a paranoia that this was part of some greater plan and that the rug would be pulled out from me in true Writtenafterwards style, but instead there was absolute honesty, and even though this was a literal fashion collection it did not betray the conceptual roots one bit.
At its core this basic line was Yamagata himself through and through, not even his wardrobe as such but the man himself as clothes. Key amongst all the ideas at work was his hometown, Tottori, and whether it was the area’s sand dunes, white rose milk, crabs or customs, it was represented in the details of the clothes. Taking this idea to its logical conclusion was a clod of earth from the area that greeted you in the reception, and photos of the collection modeled in Tottori completed the landscape.
The structure of the clothes was taken from nostalgic memories of workmen’s clothes as above and baseball as below:
One couldn’t help but wonder if the Tanuki was Yamagata himself, wrapped as he was in his own world.
These umbrella constructions are used in festivals in Tottori, and the distinctive pattern sits well on the neck of the knit.
I will let you enjoy looking for references yourself elsewhere, but rest assured that everything means something.
On to the clothes themselves, and beyond the boxy, exaggerated silhouette in plump fabrics, the details were well beyond the naivety of the whole with the embroidery and digital printing providing quality and justification for a sale.
Rest assured that Writtenafterwards as a brand is still alive and well – this is only an addition to that world, and a very welcome one it is too.
The way out was paved with children’s toys and Yamagata’s personal effects, hammering home for those that need it – that the context of this collection was Yamagata himself.