Azzedine Alaïa was a master sculptor of fashion, painstakingly chipping away at his creations in the constant pursuit of perfection.
Yohji Yamamoto, in this homage to the couturier who died in November, venerated that approach, sending out endless variations of his sculptural, big-collared long black coats that came draped and knotted around the body in a morphing accumulation of collars and sleeves. Certain looks sported white patches or dangling silicon pigs to break the elegance.
”As soon as I heard he had passed away,” the designer said backstage of Alaïa, “suddenly this theme came to me. Normally it doesn’t happen like that.”
But Alaïa’s death also challenged Yamamoto to do “something that has never before been done in fashion: an homage to Mr. Cubism [Pablo Picasso].”
His more literal nods to Picasso came in the form of 3-D cubic constructions worked on the sleeves of a shiny brown leather jacket, say, or on the shoulder of a long flared coat. But the way a collar poked out here, a sleeve there, also evoked Picasso’s deconstruction of the human form in his paintings.
Tributes to the “king of cling” and his celebration of the female body could be felt in the patchworked leather corsets that Yamamoto fused with his cloth, their scarlike seams lending fragility. Alaïa was also an expert tailor, with Yamamoto revisiting his classic black double-breasted military coat.
That it still felt pure Yohji underscored the designers’ similarities, as fellow masters of refining their practice.
Greeting Alaïa’s circle backstage, including his partner, painter Christoph von Weyhe, an emotional Yamamoto confessed the collection had physically taken it out of him. He had literally given it his all.
“I was thinking, after this show, I will go away. I’m so tired, this time I was so exhausted. Maybe tomorrow I will fall down,” said Yamamoto, adding that the emotion from the audience helped carry him through. “Even from backstage, the reaction, the emotion, all the models bring it back,” the designer said.