By  on April 13, 2005

PARIS — For all its apparent glamour and gloss, fashion is a messy business behind the scenes.

Consider the office of Yohji Yamamoto. His desk is piled high with paper, Adidas sneaker boxes, stomach medicine and other detritus of his chosen profession.

Or consider that of his studio chief, Madame Shimosako. Her work surface is scarred by X-ACTO knives and cluttered with packets of cigarettes, Japanese animal cookies and, of course, a gigantic pair of scissors.

Offering a rare glimpse of the creative process of a fashion great, the Yamamoto exhibition that bows at the Museum of Fashion and Textiles at the Louvre here today displays everything from paper patterns to complete rooms replicated from the designer’s Tokyo studio. Even rejects — dresses that never made it onto the runway or into production — are given a rare moment in the fashion spotlight.

“I wanted to show everything and there are naturally many mistakes,” the designer said with a shrug.

At turns hectic and poetic, the exhibition marks the first time the museum will allow visitors to touch some of the garments on display, from an unfinished, double-faced coat to a dramatically fringed umbrella.

“Touch is the most important thing; the most important value of the clothing,” Yamamoto stressed in an interview Monday. “Sometimes, I start collections by saying touch is very important: soft touch, hard touch, strange touch.”

Upon entering the exhibition, which runs through Aug. 28, visitors encounter nothing but large, industrial shelves containing bolts of fabric. “Yes, it will stay like that,” interjected curator Olivier Saillard with a chuckle. “It’s to give the idea of the back rooms of a fashion house.”

And how. The designer was given carte blanche and his exhibit designer, Masao Nihei, opted for a busy, DIY feel on the first floor, with catalogues displayed on ironing boards and backstage photos hung with hunks of masking tape.

Yamamoto laughed knowingly when asked why his clothes are so minimal and his office such a — how shall we say? — disaster area.

“I’m working in a studio, where there are so many craftsmen working around. They bring so many things into my room. Naturally, it becomes a mountain of trash,” he said with a chuckle. “I simply wanted to show the reality and the working space is not always clean.”

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