21 July 2011

A Waking Dream


Fall/Winter 2009

The first look of Yohji's Fall/Winter 2009 collection has been a personal inspiration for a number of months now - the long silhouette, the slightly extended cuffs, the full wrap skirt, the long hair, the beard, the passing reference to Rasputin.  However the collection as a whole was admittedly not one of his strongest.  It was too broad in its references, and a certain number of questionable printed silk boxer shorts worn over trousers seemed too forced compared to Yohji's customary jokes.  Yet despite that, there are looks that I still feel strongly about, and indeed rank amongst my personal favourites.

In a number of looks I was fascinated by the subtle obfuscation of the body, either through obscuring the silhouette or merely layering in an unexpected manner.  Fashion has become one of the main ways in which the modern self negotiates identity, and it is done so through interaction with the body.  Outward appearance is paradoxically seen as inherently deceptive, but also somehow expressive of a deeper truth (whether it be identity or the self).  Indeed that paradox is something that has always intrigued me, questioning what we are expressing when we dress - either consciously or not, and how it is read by others.  Dress is at once both extremely intimate and extremely public.  We are a society of dressed bodies, and reflective surfaces notwithstanding, our clothed selves are usually seen by others more than ourselves.  Dress becomes an armour in the modern city, a sliver of identity for others to read in ever-increasingly fleeting moments.  And in this collection that armour was apparent, not literally in terms of sharp silhouettes and strong lines, but in layers, deconstructed tailoring and a masking of the body.  

With the skirted look and the heavy knitwear look, for example, the traditional silhouette of the masculine body was obscured and transformed.  It was relatively subtle, and indeed a more striking example would not be hard to find, but it was that subtlety which was part of what I enjoyed so greatly.  What was captured was the inherent duality of clothing in its relation to the body, especially once in movement.  He highlighted the relationship of clothing both concealing and revealing (the body, but at a deeper level, the self), but more importantly, highlighting the dual notions of presence and absence.  By covering the body in such a manner, whether it be the legs that are traditionally thought of only in bifurcated garments (just think of the logo for the men's toilet), or the chest and torso engulfed in ostensibly shapeless knitwear, the expected signals and meanings were thus subverted.  The garments become aporetic, and through this process the inherent meanings of what would otherwise be a simple tailored or knitwear look were changed, and thus questioning those expected traditional meanings.

The first model walks out but his legs are obscured.  The iconic image of a suited man striding forward is transformed.  The masculine image of strong shoulders and chest is present, but the legs are hidden.  Their shape is suggested through the skirt as his front leg pushes out, creating a tension across the garment.  Similarly a model walks out draped in heavy knitwear, covering his body, almost swallowing him in sensual comfort.  The body is hidden, but added upon, creating an even larger silhouette, hinting perhaps at strength.  But what would otherwise be overbearing strength, were it executed in sculpted tailoring, is undercut by the choice of soft knitwear.  Elsewhere deconstructed workwear jackets, or baggy shorts worn over slouchy leggings, transform the body, creating new shapes and thus new meanings.  What we see is a play upon traditional dress, but more than that, a play upon identity.  Dress can be used to create, to transform, to subvert, however subtly, the very notion of what it is that dress is thought to express.  It was not his best collection, but I still think of Yohji as the master poet. 









xxxx

10 comments:

  1. I love your posts on Yohji's work.
    There's always such thought put into them. They're beautiful.

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  2. I so love the double breasted coat and hat..and also that beard!

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  3. Such great commentary. This definitely looks like a collection that could take on the cold elements of fall and winter, too. So European cool.

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  4. Really love this manly fashion.

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  5. Such a handsome band of suits.

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  6. Thanks to you introducing me, Yohji is now one of my favorite menswear designers. I love the variety of the models selected, and how each look is tailored for them. What a stunning collection and fabulous commentary!

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  7. I've always admired Yohji's introduction of skirts for men and the way he could skillfully combine layering with volume and tailoring. I know that according to Japanese tradition his fellow designers (Rei and Issey) firmly believed in the space between objects ('ma') as being filled with energy, so I wonder if some of that influenced the shapes he introduced.

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  8. Thank you Syed for so coherently talking about this subject. You're deeply critical in the most loving way and it all balances out in your brilliant writing. I've been struggling to write a good post about men wearing skirts since January and every time I open that document it grows by another 500 words. This is a can of worms that you successfully navigated. Well done, it's tricky!

    I'm surprised I have only come to start reading your blog in the last month or two I feel like you really are someone who I admire as a fellow blogger for your integrity to intellect. I'm sure it's the same for you but I simply can't post outfit photos or pictures of clothing without delving into the human psychology of it all. So thank you!

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  9. you speak really passionately about this subject and Yohji's work, you are the go-to guy on the subject if you ask me. when i see a collection which includes a skirt on a man i'm pretty sure i will be reminded of this article

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  10. you speak really passionately about this subject and Yohji's work, you are the go-to guy on the subject if you ask me. when i see a collection which includes a skirt on a man i'm pretty sure i will be reminded of this article

    ReplyDelete