Yohji Yamamoto (Japanese, b. 1943). Dress, spring/summer 2005. Red hand-pleated silk crepe. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2006 (2006.37).
When asked about the inspiration for his beautifully pleated gowns, Yohji Yamamoto replied equivocally, “Maybe Mme Grès—maybe.” Over the last twenty years Yamamoto has moved from a style characterized by a radical upending of the conventions of Western dress, both in his aesthetics and in his construction techniques, to a quieter, contemplative questioning of the great traditions of fashionable attire. Clearly, his research into the masters of twentieth-century couture dressmaking and bespoke tailoring has informed his astonishing recent collections, which are at once historicizing and avant-garde.
This pleated gown both honors and advances the work of Grès. While the technique reprises the approach evolved by the iconic couturiere, Yamamoto introduces a full three-dimensionality to the pleated relief of the silk, which was rare in the designs by Grès. Yamamoto’s odd, staggered pairing of pleated donutlike shapes at the neckline recalls sea anemones in retraction or coral formations—an allusion to nature and the sea that the designer does not dismiss.