YOHJI YAMAMOTO – My Dear Bomb is the cryptic title of a new book – a biography of sorts – to be released around the world this month by its author and subject, Yohji Yamamoto, 山本 耀司, one of Japan’s fashion masters. While the title alludes to the explosive nature of the creativity within that inspires Yamamoto’s endeavors, it could just as aptly symbolize his personal ‘big bang‘ moment when together with his Japanese avant-garde fashion concepts, ‘the poet of black’ exploded onto the fashion scene in the late 1970s.

Yohji Yamamoto Fall Winter 2010/2011 Paris : : creative director Yohji Yamamoto, music Jim Croce

When I start working on the material, I think my way into the form it ought to assume.

Yohji Yamamoto 1997

Yohji Yamamoto is very much an artist, working in a monochrome palette, where black – mostly black – and white are at times accented with bold bright colored highlights. His clothes are, like those of his fellow fashion iconoclast and one time girlfriend, Rei Kawakubo, born of a fiery intellect and push the boundaries of fabric, form and structure. Together, when their collections were first unveiled to an unsuspecting international audience for the first time in Paris in 1981, Kawakubo and Yamamoto forever shifted the boundaries of fashion. His collections, at times infused with androgyny, rework classic tailored concepts and reference great designers past; they fuse Western dress motifs with Japanese traditional styles; his soft draped lines present an easy luxury; his vision contains asymmetric cuts, layers of beautiful or unusual fabric and unexpected wrapping; the use of volume in his clothing can be both striking and romantic. He sculpts with fabrics and creates clothes that combine casual and formal aesthetics. For his more mainstream designs, the ones sold off the racks in the department stores, there is an attention to detail, expert craftsmanship, the finest fabrics and perfectly fitting shapes and silhouettes.

Yamamoto presents a striking figure, clad in his signature color, black, his face framed by thick black eyebrows and goatee and long hair streaked with grey; he resembles a beat poet, or a rock guitarist, which he is in fact, having performed solo on guitar to provide the music for his Paris Autumn/Winter ready to wear show in 2008. A fan of rock and roll, he’s also tried his hand at the genre, collaborating on an album, La Pensee, in 1987 with Yukihiro Takahashi of Yellow Magic Orchestra and releasing his own albums: Well I gotta go (1991) and Dog of Terror (1998).

He’s also turned his talents to film and theater, providing costume designs for ‘Beat’ Takeshi’s films Brother (2000) and Dolls (2002) and for the stage productions of the Opéra de Lyon’s Madame Butterfly (1990) and the Ryuichi Sakamoto opera Life (1999) among others.

YOHJI YAMAMOTO – My Dear Bomb is Yamamoto’s second book; the first, Talking to Myself – published as a limited edition run of 7000 by Steidl & Partners – contained two clothbound books in a single sleeve. In these, were musings, drawings and calligraphy by Yamamoto, together with conversations with philosopher Kiyokazu Washida and images by a number of renowned photographers. It was presented as a work in progress, a notebook looking at aspects of the designer’s life.

YOHJI YAMAMOTO – My Dear Bomb, produced by Belgian publishing house Ludion, is as creative a reworking of the standard biography as his catwalk fashions are a reinterpretation of clothes. While the book does contain a pictorial biographical timeline and contains ‘flashback’ retellings of key moments in his life and career, there are also hand drawings by the designer and it interestingly contains short pieces of fiction ‘based on his spoken voice’, together with philosophical considerations of ‘the Japanese elements of Yohji Yamamoto’, in an attempt to present an essence of Yohji today. It’s required reading for all fans of Yohji, for those inspired by creative publishing and for those interested in the history of avant-garde fashion.

I am searching for beauty and trying to touch history with clothes.

Yohji Yamamoto 2006

Yohji Yamamoto Aoyama Tokyo flagship store


  • 1943: Yōji Yamamoto was born in Yokohama to a seamstress mother
  • 1966: he graduated in Law from Tokyo’s Keio University
  • 1969: he received a degree from Tokyo’s Bunka Fashion College (Bunkafukuso Gakuin); he also received a So-en Award and an Endo Award that allowed him to go to Paris on a scholarship
  • 1972: he established his fashion house, Y’s Incorporated, and launched his women’s ready to wear label, Y’s
  • 1975: his daughter Limi was born – after woking on her father’s Y’s label, she went on to start her own label in 2000, Y’s Bis LIM that became LIMI feu, and made her own acclaimed debut at Paris Fashion Week in 2008
  • 1977: he debuted his collection in Tokyo
  • 1979: a ready to wear range, Y’s for Men, was launched – it now comprises Y’s for Men Shirt and Red Label (both lines are only available in Japan)
  • 1981: he presented his black minimalist collection at the prêt-à-porter shows in Paris for the first time; the Yohji Yamamoto clothing line was introduced
  • 1982: he first showed his collection in New York
  • 1984: he showed his first menswear collection in Paris – Yohji Yamamoto pour Homme; Yohji Yamamoto Inc. was established
  • 1988: the Yohji Yamamoto Aoyama flagship store was opened
  • 1989: he was the subject of a documentary, Notebooks on Cities and Clothes, by Wim Wenders
  • 1994: he was awarded the French Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et Lettres
  • 1995: Yohji Yamamoto + NOIR was established – the range comprised classic Yohji Yamamoto pieces – predominantly in black
  • 1996: the first fragrance, YOHJI, was released
  • 2002: he presented his haute couture collection in Paris for the first time; produced Talking to Myself, a limited edition set of two ‘notebooks’ by and about Yamamoto; he partnered with adidas for his women’s collection
  • 2003: the first Y-3 collection for adidas was presented
  • 2004: the first Y-3 store opened in Tokyo’s Aoyama area
  • 2005: Yohji Yamamoto Inc. was commended by the Japanese government as a Dedicated Company to Creation of Japanese Brand
  • 2007: the younger focused COMING SOON range was launched; Yamamoto collaborated with Italian bag maker Mandarina Duck to produce Y’s Mandarina range; another collaboration saw the release of the first Yohji Yamamoto for Dr. Martens shoe collection
  • 2008: Yamamoto established the Yohji Yamamoto Fund for Peace (YYFP) to strengthen relations between China and Japan while helping develop China’s fashion industry
  • 2009: with debts of 6 billion yen, Yohji Yamamoto’s company filed for bankruptcy protection; Japanese investment firm Integral Corporation signed on to finance the company while it underwent restructuring
  • 2010: after an interval of nearly 2 decades from Japan’s fashion circuit, he staged YOHJI YAMAMOTO THE MEN 4.1 2010 TOKYO, a famous ‘comeback’ show at Tokyo’s Yoyogi National Stadium; Yohji Yamamoto – My Dear Bomb is released in English, French, Japanese and Chinese language editions

yohji yamamoto yohji yamamoto aoyama

Video Credits

Director: Yohji Yamamoto

Hair/make-up: Eugene Souleiman

Make-up: Pat McGrath

Venue: Lycée Carnot, Paris

Producer: Yohji Yamamoto Inc.

Music: Jim Croce

© 2010 Yohji Yamamoto Inc.