Yohji Yamamoto at the Victoria and Albert

Next spring the V&A will open the first UK solo exhibition celebrating the life and work of Yohji Yamamoto, one of the world’s most influential and enigmatic fashion designers. This installation-based retrospective, taking place 30 years after his Paris debut, will feature over 80 garments spanning Yamamoto’s career. The exhibition will explore the work of a designer who has challenged, provoked and inspired the fashion world.

Yamamoto’s visionary designs will be exhibited on mannequins amongst the treasures of the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). Placed in hidden corners of the Museum, the silhouettes will create a direct dialogue between Yamamoto’s work and the different spaces in which they are displayed. Items will be found on the Leighton corridor, in the Norfolk House Music Room and looking out onto the John Madejski Garden from an alcove in the Hintze Sculpture Galleries. Other pieces will be sited on marble staircases, adjacent to Renaissance sculptures in the Renaissance City Gallery and within the Tapestry Gallery.

The exhibition will run from 12 March until 10 July 2011.

The exhibition will be designed by Yamamoto’s long-time collaborator, scenographer and lighting designer Masao Nihei. The main exhibition space will see over 60 garments from Yamamoto’s womenswear and menswear collections accompanied by a mixed-media timeline showing excerpts from his fashion shows, films and performances, graphic material and select photographs which will contextualise his career. Following Yamamoto’s previous solo exhibitions in Florence Correspondences (2005), Paris Juste des Vêtements (2005) and Antwerp Dream Shop (2006), this UK retrospective will exhibit items from his menswear collections for the first time.

Yohji Yamamoto was born in Tokyo in 1943 and studied at Keio University then Bunka Fashion College, by 1972 he set up his own company Y’s Incorporated. From the start of his career Yamamoto’s work was recognised for challenging the conventions of fashion.

The asymmetric cuts and seemingly unflattering curves of his early work contradicted the Photograph by Ronald Stoops close-fitted styles of the catwalks and he has refused traditional norms of fashion ever since.

Yamamoto’s designs have rewritten notions of beauty in fashion, and the playful androgyny of his work creates new modalities of gender identity. His collections are recognised for subverting gender stereotypes and have featured women wearing garments traditionally associated with menswear. Included in the exhibition will be menswear items from the Autumn/Winter 1998 season which was famously modelled on women.

Yamamoto’s fabrics are central to his design practise and are a trademark of his work. Supporting craftspeople in and around Kyoto, his textiles are created to specification often employing traditional Japanese dyeing and embroidery techniques such as Shibori and Yu-zen. The selection of works on show will give visitors the opportunity to study examples of Yamamoto’s application of traditional Japanese techniques.