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April 2, 2010 4:52 PM

Fashion, Men's

Yohji Yamamoto's Arena Rock

If there was any doubt about Yohji Yamamoto's fan base in his home country of Japan, it was definitely eradicated Thursday night. More than 3,000 people packed into a former Olympic stadium in Tokyo to take in his celebrity-studded men's...

If there was any doubt about Yohji Yamamoto's fan base in his home country of Japan, it was definitely eradicated Thursday night. More than 3,000 people packed into a former Olympic stadium in Tokyo to take in his celebrity-studded men's show.


The show proved to be a reciprocal act of admiration between an iconic designer and his legion of followers, which ran the gamut from businessmen in suits to avant-garde artist types.


Backstage, Yamamoto said he wanted to pay tribute to his home country because he hadn't staged a fashion show there in almost 20 years. In turn, his fans showed their support for the 66-year-old designer just months after his company filed for bankruptcy protection. (Japanese private equity fund Integral Corp. has since taken over the business to restructure it.)


"Well Yohji's back, very simply," Yoshihiro Hemmi, the chairman of the fashion house, told me.


He said the show actually accomplished two things: It demonstrated how many people of all ages still identify with the designer and it also helped boost employee morale -- not a bad thing for a company emerging from financial collapse.



The proceedings weren't slated to start until 8 p.m., but the doors actually opened at 6:30 p.m. to accommodate the massive crowd. The venue is an architectural landmark and one of the most eye-catching structures in the city. It's the smaller of two stadiums designed by Kenzo Tange for the 1964 Olympic Games. True to the era of their construction, their circular shapes and curved rooftops make them resemble spaceships out of a sci-fi movie.


Almost immediately after taking my seat on the floor of the arena. I received a phone call from an acquaintance of mine named Ren. He's a student at Bunka Fashion College and a part-time waiter at my favorite neighborhood restaurant. He told me he was in the stands so we waved until we found one another's faces in the sea of people. His professor gave him a ticket, he explained.


After the show, the designer seemed his usual self. He sipped Champagne while he fielded questions from reporters and greeted friends and well-wishers. Although he spoke in soft tones, he didn't hold back when it came time to discuss about how fashion has evolved over the past few decades.


"Fashion has become consumption. The idea of living together with clothes has disappeared. If we don't get that back, fashion will disappear from Japan," he said, before going on to criticize fast fashion in terser language: "Let it go. Go to hell."
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