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Sleeveless white felt dress with large collar, Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 1996-7, Juste des Vêtements exhibition, Musée de la Mode et du Textile, Paris, 2005 © Courtesy of Gael Amzalag

LONDON.- This spring the V&A opened the first UK solo exhibition celebrating the life and work of Yohji Yamamoto, one of the world's most influential and enigmatic fashion designers. This installation-based retrospective, taking place 30 years after his Paris debut, features over 80 garments spanning Yamamoto’s career. The exhibition explores the work of a designer who has challenged, provoked and inspired the fashion world

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Detail of white cotton shirt and navy blue pleated skirt with raw edges, Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 1999-2000. © Courtesy of Ronald Stoops

Yamamoto’s visionary designs are exhibited on mannequins amongst the treasures of the V&A. Placed in hidden corners of the Museum, the silhouettes creates a direct dialogue between Yamamoto’s work and the different spaces in which they are displayed. Items are found on the British Galleries Landing, in the Norfolk House Music Room and looking out onto the John Madejski Garden from an alcove in the Hintze Sculpture Galleries. Other pieces are sited in the Paintings Gallery, amongst the museum’s Ceramics collections and within the Tapestry Gallery.

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Blended wool coats and integrated bags, Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 1983. Rights Reserved

The exhibition has been designed by Yamamoto's long-time collaborator, scenographer and lighting designer Masao Nihei. The main exhibition space sees over 60 garments from Yamamoto’s womenswear and menswear collections accompanied by a mixed-media timeline showing excerpts from his fashion shows, films and performances, graphic material and select photographs which contextualise his career. Following Yamamoto’s previous solo exhibitions in Florence Correspondences (2005), Paris Juste des Vêtements (2005) and Antwerp Dream Shop (2006), this UK retrospective exhibits items from his menswear collections for the first time.

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Navy blue cotton overall, Yohji Yamamoto, Spring/Summer 2003. © Courtesy of Monica Feudi

Yohji Yamamoto was born in Tokyo in 1943 and studied at Keio University then Bunka Fashion College, by 1972 he set up his own company Y’s Incorporated. From the start of his career Yamamoto’s work was recognised for challenging the conventions of fashion. The asymmetric cuts and seemingly unflattering curves of his early work contradicted the close-fitted styles of the catwalks and he has refused traditional norms of fashion ever since.

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Dark navy blue and black coat with embroidered stars, white sleeveless top, beige cardigan and black trousers, Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 2006-7. © Courtesy of Monica Feudi / Feudi e Guaineri

 Yamamoto’s designs have rewritten notions of beauty in fashion, and the playful androgyny of his work creates new modalities of gender identity. His collections are recognised for subverting gender stereotypes and have featured women wearing garments traditionally associated with menswear. Included in the exhibition will be menswear items from the Autumn/Winter 1998 season which was famously modelled on women.

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Black cotton suit jacket with white embroidery and black cotton trousers, Yohji Yamamoto, Spring/Summer 2009. © Courtesy of Monica Feudi

Yamamoto's fabrics are central to his design practise and are a trademark of his work. Supporting craftspeople in and around Kyoto, his textiles are created to specification often employing traditional Japanese dyeing and embroidery techniques such as Shibori and Yu-zen. The selection of works on show will give visitors the opportunity to study examples of Yamamoto’s application of traditional Japanese techniques.

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Black linen jacket with multi-coloured embroidery patches, oversized black polo shirt and cropped black linen trousers, Yohji Yamamoto, Spring/Summer 2011. © Courtesy of Monica Feudi

The exhibition also records the breadth of some of Yamamoto’s key collaborations achieved through his career. Partnerships with fashion photographer Nick Knight, graphic designer Peter Saville, art director Marc Ascoli and M/M (Paris), choreographer Pina Bausch and filmmakers Takeshi Kitano and Wim Wenders amongst many others, are represented by a mixed-media timeline in the main exhibition space, and demonstrates an important, creative dialogue which flows through his work. With respect to the catalogues and iconic images they produced for Yohji Yamamoto in the late 1980s, Peter Saville art directs the exhibition identity, publicity and catalogue working with Nick Knight to create imagery and YES Studio on graphic design.

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Knitted striped wool cardigan and black cotton trousers, Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 2006-7. © Courtesy of Monica Feudi

As part of the retrospective, Yamamoto's work stretches further across London with exhibitions at the Wapping Project sites, at both Bankside (11 March to 14 May 2011) and Wapping (11 March to 10 July 2011).

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Knitted woollen jumper with manga character 'Candy', black wool coat and black cropped trousers, Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 2006-7. © Courtesy of Monica Feudi

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Off-white wool jersey dess with oversized white knitted hat, Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 1999-2000. © Courtesy of Ronald Stoops

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Shibori technique used on kimono-inspired dresses, Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 1994-5. © Courtesy of Alessandro Ciampi

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Detail of Shibori technique used on a kimono, Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 1994-5. © Courtesy of Alessandro Ciampi

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Detail of Shibori technique used on a kimono, Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 1994-5. © Courtesy of Gael Amzalag

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Yuzen dyed emblem of a tiger's head and paws on inside-out pink silk coat and grey wool trousers, Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 2009-10. © Courtesy of Monica Feudi

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Detail of Yuzen technique used on a kimono, Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 1994-5. © Courtesy of Gael Amzalag

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Loose grey pinstriped sleeveless suit jacket, date-jime belt - sash used to tie and hold in place under kimono and outer kimono and blue yuzen-dyed, patterned full skirt, Yohji Yamamoto, Spring/Summer 2002. © Courtesy of Monica Feudi

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Yohji Yamamoto exhibition at the V&A, 2011.

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Yohji Yamamoto Satellite display in the Contemporary Ceramics gallery at the V&A, 2011.

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© Courtesy of Jeremy Stigter