A new publication from Japanese fashion photographer Takay celebrates the avant-garde elegance of Yohji Yamamoto’s designs, as showcased by some of Japan’s most noted figures
In 2012, acclaimed fashion photographer Takay was commissioned to shoot the great Japanese stage director, Yukio Ninagawa. Takay – himself a Japanese native, who relocated to London in the 1990s, thereafter launching his longstanding career in image-making – had caught wind of Ninagawa’s appreciation for the elegant, avant-garde designs of another Japanese mastermind, Yohji Yamamoto, and suggested that the director bring along a favourite Yamamoto coat to wear to the session. “I was so impressed when I saw [him in it],” the photographer tells AnOther. “It was not how I was accustomed to seeing him dress; he looked so stylish and effortlessly cool [thanks to] Yohji’s master tailoring and strong lines.”
Inspired by the experience, and made aware of how few Japanese models had been used to showcase Yamamoto’s designs in European fashion photography, Takay had an idea: to photograph an array of Japanese creatives, dressed in pieces from the Yamamoto archive. He was granted permission to do so, and set about realising his plan, returning to Japan to capture figures ranging from the legendary photographer Daido Moriyama (one of his biggest influences, alongside Takashi Nakagawa) and the actress Rie Miyazawa, to Lala, the model daughter of Undercover designer Jun Takahashi, and hip-hop artist Kohh – all wearing Yamamoto’s singular garments.
“I had a list of who I could visualise in Yohji’s designs,” Takay says of selecting his subjects, “and then the stylists and I considered who would wear the pieces we had chosen best.” The resulting pictures, atmospherically captured in black and white, have now been transformed into a covetable, newly released photo book, titled Fluence: The Continuance of Yohji Yamamoto and published by Damiani.
“‘Fluence’ has many meanings,” Takay explains of the title, “all which can be applied to Yohji’s clothing. One definition is mysterious, magical or [possessed of] hypnotic power, which I feel is an accurate description of what happens when people wear Yohji’s clothing: it transforms the wearer. When the subject stands in front of my camera dressed in Yohji Yamamoto, their composure and attitude is different, the clothes stimulate style and creativity in both the subject and myself.”
This is evident throughout the book – in a shot of model Yuka Mannami performing a balletic jump, for instance, her inherent grace elevated by the close-fitting black dress and shawl that engulf her, or the images of Rie Miyazawa striking a performative pose, her hands clasping the waistline of her polka-dot gown, from which the garment’s pleated skirt flows like water. “The spatio-temporal movement of clothing is hard to capture in a photograph,” Yoichi Ochiai, a digital artist and another of the book’s subjects, notes shrewdly in its introductory text. “Confronting [this challenge], Takay artfully uses analogue film noise and light flares to depict the texture of loose threads and wrinkles in each outfit, as if enclosing those into a portrait together with the aura of his subject.”
Elsewhere, intimate close-ups juxtapose the material sensibilities and unique cut of the largely black designs with the physical traits of the wearer, from an angular haircut to a soft, age-lined hand, while other images centre more on the shoots’ locations, presenting the subjects mysteriously silhouetted against various Tokyo streetscapes that recall Japan’s Showa era. “I left Japan in the mid-90s, when I was 20 years old, and looking at the photos once I’d taken them, I realised that I’d subconsciously chosen [spots] that reflect that period of my youth,” Takay expands on his nostalgic return to his roots after so many years spent abroad.
“I hope people will see the beauty, strength and timelessness of Yohji’s expert creations,” he muses of his ambitions for the book – qualities that his sensuous, yet powerful photographs undoubtedly encapsulate. “I’m proud of the outcome,” he says. “I feel the images are strong, elegant and evocative as a result of the collaboration from everyone involved.”
Fluence: The Continuance of Yohji Yamamoto by Takay is out now, published by Damiani.