In the darkened nave of an armory, a hooded figure, clandestine in a military flight jacket unraveled into a sweeping cape, brushed through intersecting web of laser beams and smoke. He advanced with purpose, brushing insouciantly through the flanks of fashion editors, buyers and tastemakers at the Park Avenue Armory last Sunday, illustrating the escapist fantasies of Yohji Yamamoto at his Y-3 Fall/Winter 2010 presentation.
While Y-3’s last season was a cheery, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed sartorial rendition of the FIFA World Cup, melding sporty functionality with artistic tendencies, this season Yamamoto takes on the persona of a design vagabond with an irreverent attitude towards rules. And his nonchalance shows through all elements of design in both collection and presentation, pushing the envelop in concept, form, style and material. The Y-3 man and woman are advocates of freedom with a superhero savior tendency for the future of sports style. Very much a sartorial translation of sports adrenaline rush, the collection not only seems to help one break free from the doom and gloom of reality, transgressing through space, time and dimension to another world where everything is better with cheeky sense of humor, enthusiasm in bright splashes of colors and a disregard for form with dramatic volume, sophisticated draping, layering and imaginative shapes. Albeit the futuristic direction for this season, innovation is executed elegantly with inspiration from tradition. Bespoke English tailoring and giving classic shapes fresh materials (and classic materials in unparalleled, innovative shapes) keep a slight sense of nostalgia at bay. This is accented with sentimental tunes from Simon & Garfunkel crooning “Jesus loves you more than you will know”, bringing the vagabond spiritually connected to the past and home.
The collection creates characters for a fictional world where the traditional military garb is remixed, deconstructed then reconstructed into modern pieces for the transgressing time traveler. For women, deliberately scrunched and ruched short sleeve capes fall over traditional long-sleeved polos and topped asymmetrical skirts, depicting an artful disdain for tried forms. The same sentiments carry through to other strong pieces in the season such as an elongated ribbed bomber which has its back catapulted into a graceful, ankle grazing cape. As for men, layering is key and full, knee-length shorts are cut generously to both facilitate comfort and create a play of proportions and sartorial theatrics when moving with its wearer. Track pants also poses a challenge to proportions with ballooned legs and elastic ankles; for women, copious volumes come in drop-crotch track pants that look pulled together with contrasting cuffed, thin ankles. Leggings and leg warmers create an added level of complexity to styling for both men and women, and sweater jackets explore modularity with removable shawls and scarves. The freedom to convert, layer, conceal and remove emphasizes the free-spirited mood and determination from the measured and polished fashion anarchist.
In terms of color, Yamamoto doesn’t veer from daring uses of shades. Liberal bright splashes of orange, browns, greens, red, navy and plums come together to create a kaleidoscopic collection. To keep things refined and tasteful, pieces are kept to monotones but leniently paired with other colors. The desire to break free of the confinements of convention in color and form comes in footwear, as sneakers are reworked with thin heels. Yamamoto courageously paired silver with attention seeking pinks and other bright neon shades, advancing the Y-3 vagabond’s steps in escaping tiresome norms.
In viewing this collection, slogans like “23 YEARS IN PRISON 20 = Y-3” continue to strengthen the label’s case and desire for freedom. It is quite difficult not to associate this sentiment and meticulous tracking of years as a personal tribute to Yamamoto. It seems as if he is seeking something new, something refreshing and something different from his past 28 years in the industry. Especially after a rather tumultuous 2009 with words of bankruptcy from his eponymous label and rampant rumors with regards to the Y-3 line, the new season seem to be a sartorial depiction of a needed jolt of creativity to his workâ€”to rush out of confinements both imposed by the industry and his own work, to take a fresh perspective and rediscover a new plane of imagination where he can just have fun and make something out of the ordinary.
Of course, the end of the show seem to affirm just that, where Yamamoto brought out befitting anime theatrics (which tie in with his collection so seamlessly) and he duked it out with a masked model. Yamamoto emerged victorious before Freja Beha knocked him back down on the ground. All in all, once again, an awe-inspiring collection that stood out in all aspects of fashion design against other top industry names during New York Fashion Week, proving that sports, freedom and elegance not only coexist harmoniously in Yamamoto’s world, but they also represent a coveted lifestyle which taps into a very relevant desire clouding the gloomy world today.