The prolific Japanese designer created some of David Bowie’s most defining looks.

By Balthazar Malevolent


Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto has died at the age of 76 years. Yamamoto's daughter Miki Yamamoto has taken to Instagram to announce the news of the death of her father. The prolific designer was fighting with acute myeloid leukemia that he revealed back in March. 

Kansai Yamamoto.Kansai Yamamoto.

The designs of Kansai Yamomoto were well ahead of his time in many ways and this is evident in photographs of his 1971 London Fashion Week debut. He burst into the scene with a distinctive flair for androgynous designs, creating revealing knit playsuits, silk capes and other flamboyant garments influenced by the tradition-challenging Japanese form of Basara. His runway was lined with models dressed as Kabuki actors wearing attires imbued with rich Ukiyo-e woodblock prints, and offset with light tailoring and large leather tube belts. He also designed some of the most defining looks of David Bowie, a major factor that contributed to the birth of the early '70s artist's Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane personas. Yamamoto described his relationship with the singer in a 2016 interview: "There was some kind of chemical reaction: my garments were part of David, his songs and his music. They became part of the message he was bringing to the world." In 1992 the designer retired with his final collection. David Bowie's costumes from Kansai Yamamoto can be seen at the Museum of Art in Brooklyn. 

One way the designer pushed boundaries on the runways of the 1970s and 1980s was through exaggerated proportions. He used quilting to give his garments dimensionality and delighted in color, once mentioning it was "like oxygen." Some of his most influential work has a pop-slash-glam rock feel. Yamamoto liked to offer a nostalgic twist to imagery taken from Japanese art, particularly the Kabuki theatre — and those were the looks revisited by Nicolas Ghesquière and his creator for the 2018 resort collection by Louis Vuitton.

In other news, Takay, The Japanese photographer, filmed models in Yohji Yamamoto classic uniforms, some with new design twists in an imaginary show with soft and jazzy music and occasional close-up displays to show the details of the signature looks: easily recognizable Yohji styles with the slouchy silhouettes and military uniform garments.

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