Wearing the skin touch.
Ken Mogi April 2003
Written for "May I help you?", a Yohji Yamamoto exhibit at Hara Museum, Tokyo
The memes of fashion are transmitted for the most part visually. We choose clothes envisioning ourselves wearing it. We look into the mirror and decide which item to pick up. Fashion is predominantly visually communicated and consumed.
The experience of wearing clothes, however, is basically that of the skin touch. When separate from the body, clothes can be seen in their entirety. Once worn, they disappear from the visual field. Only parts covering the arms, legs a and breasts can be seen. The skin touch of the clothes, on the other hand, is always present, as far as you are in the attire. Naturally, you are not always aware of the skin touch. The initial shock of putting your neck into a tight turtleneck sweater rapidly fades away. We are most of the time forgetful of the skin touch that the clothes give us. We are so forgetful, in fact, that the skin touch is actually incorporated into the sense of the own body, to become a part of the self, affecting the mood.
The skin touch of the fabric is not static. The fabric is always rubbing our body, as you bend your knees, stand up from the chair, go down the stairs, shake hands with people. The momentally feeling of deprivation that strikes us when we retire into our room and put the clothes off certainly has a lot to do with the loss of the continuous caresss that the pieces of fabric around our body has given during the day. The daily connection and disconnection to the textile caress is a basic provider of the bodily rhythm in our life.
The design of the clothes, therefore, is as much a layout of the skin touch through the choice and cut of the fabric as an arrangement of the visual appearance.
Yohji Yamamoto's design principles seem to carry a manifesto on the skin touch as much as conventional fashion statements. To clad the body with loosely hanging fabric is to produce a pleasure through the skin touch. A loosely fabricated skirt from the 2003 spring/summer collection touches the model girl's knees gently as she walks through the corridor to the music of Borelo by Ravel. The vision gives one an expectation for a heavenly skin touch as much as a visual joy. The designer himself is often seen clad in a loose fabric genly covering the body, a testament to an acute sensitivity to the skin touch.
Needless to say, clothes are to be seen as much as to be worn. When an fashion item is worn into the city, a single experience of the skin touch is surrounded by hundreds of visual experiences of the textile phenomenon. The possibilities for the fashion lie in this great asymmetry between the private and public senses.
Yohji Yamamoto's works certainly explore the possibility of making the skin touch into a publicly shared private experience. His favorite black is a color that stands for the darkness of the gap between the skin and the fabric, the darkness inside the mother's womb, where the new life is nurtured. When the designer cuts a fabric with the scissors, his hand movements are to be finally echoed in the movement of the clothes that caresses the skin of the client. We may even testify in Yamamoto's clothes the presence of a form of human love.
Yohji Yamamoto's clothes are created in a loving memory of the the first sensory encounter after birth, the loving caress of the mother's hand.