Kansai Yamamoto is still alive on the website of the “Nippon Genki Project 2020”. “Hello!” it is written in pink next to a picture on which the fashion designer can be seen in a powerful pose: red suit, clenched fist. “Now that I am fighting the disease, I really feel it: fashion has the power to make people happy,” says the text.
It can be assumed that Yamamoto would not have minded if his audience believed that despite leukemia, everything was the same. The Japanese word “Genki” means energy, health, energy, it is a key word of his fashion, with which he celebrated life. He certainly didn’t want his death to stop people from celebrating.
The planned online show is still taking place
His company has already announced that the online show of the “Nippon Genki Project 2020” will be shown on Friday at 8 p.m. And that’s no contradiction to Monday’s sad news that Kansai Yamamoto died last week at the age of 76.
Yamamoto was the pioneer of an extravagant clothing style that stood out from the sober elegance of other Japanese fashion designers to the end. Bold tones, eccentric shapes, flowing fabrics are the hallmarks of his work. At Yamamoto, fashion was an expression of passion and affirmative attitude to life, a commitment to the chaos of colors and the juxtaposition of tradition and modernity. It was as if his fashion shows were meant to be a counter-world to the low-emotion Japanese everyday business with a black and white clothing routine. At fashion shows, he wanted “to create places where I can get in touch with people’s souls”.
He gained fame in the 1970s primarily through working with British singer David Bowie, who was also a pioneer in his trade. As a young person, Yamamoto was interested in civil engineering, later he dropped out of English literature to turn to fashion. He completed an apprenticeship with the designer Junko Koshino, taught himself a lot and went into business for himself after winning a prestigious fashion award. In 1971 he founded his own company and his first collection came out in the UK and the USA.
In interviews, Yamamoto always remembered how he and David Bowie got together. Bowie bought the first Yamamoto piece shortly after Yamamoto’s first fashion show in the “Boston 151” store on Kings Road in London. The Japanese stylist Yacco Takahashi later introduced them to each other. Takahashi found that Yamamoto’s futuristic unisex designs ideally matched Bowie’s sleek appearance.
The eccentric Japanese Yamamoto and the rather calm Brit Bowie shared the enthusiasm for radical costumes. And so Yamamoto’s fashion soon shaped Bowie’s musical productions, especially when he slipped into the role of his art figure Ziggy Stardust. “There was some kind of chemical reaction,” Yamamoto said later, “my clothes became part of David, his songs, and his music.” Yamamoto knew what he owed Bowie. Pieces like his vinyl jumpsuit with balloon pants became icons for him. At the same time, Bowie would not have been the Bowie without which Yamamoto’s clothes criticized him.
See the sunrise, listen to music
Kansai Yamamoto has always described himself as a “visual person”. “I don’t hurt not listening to music for a week,” he once said, “when I see the sunrise, I see music.” You can feel this joy in everything that can be made visible in each of his interviews.
Even after he announced in February that he had leukemia, his Fashion of Genki, his fashion of energy, must have been a comfort to him. It is said that he worked on the “Nippon Genki Project 2020” for as long as he could. In his last greeting he wrote: “I want to live! I want to be loved! I want to express that !!” He succeeded with his fashion.