Japanese Fashion Designer Kansai Yamamoto Dead at 76

Jul 27, 2020 | CULTURE, Japan, NEWS, STYLE

Yamamoto said his eye-catching and gender- bending designs meant he was bound to stand out

Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto, considered a pioneer of the country’s industry and known for his work with David Bowie, has died of leukemia aged 76, his daughter announced on Monday.

“He left this world peacefully, surrounded by loved ones,” actress Mirai Yamamoto announced on Instagram.

“In my eyes, my father was not only the electric and energetic soul that the world knew him as but someone who was also thoughtful, kind-hearted, and affectionate.”

Yamamoto was known for creating bold avant-garde pieces that defied gender norms and featured brilliant colors and patterns. 

He leapt to prominence with international shows from the 1970s onwards and won popular acclaim for his collaboration with Bowie, producing a series of outfits for the singer’s Ziggy Stardust alter ego.

“I found David’s aesthetic and interest in transcending gender boundaries shockingly beautiful,” he told website The Cut in 2018.

His vivid work also won fans among other legendary performers, including Elton John and Stevie Wonder, and his experience with costume design led him to eventually stage performances that involved close interactions with the audience. 

Yamamoto Eye Catching Designs Designs

Kansai Yamamoto was known for his eye- catching and bold designs

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. 父、山本寛齋は去る7月21日、 私を含め家族が看取る中、安らかに76歳にてこの世を旅立ちました。 私にとって、父はエネルギッシュで明るいことはもとより、穏やかで、寛大で、人懐っこく、コミュニケーションを大切にし、無償の愛を与えてくれた存在でした。  また人生を通して「時に折れることがあろうと、常に前向きに、果敢に挑戦し続けることが明るい未来に繋がる」ということを教えてくれました。 生前中の父・山本寛齋と関わってくださった関係者の皆さま、医療関係者の皆さま、応援してくださった皆さまへ心より感謝を申し上げます。 今後も女優業を継続する傍ら、 2020年、年初より加わりました山本寛齋率いる「KANSAI SUPER STUDIO」にて父・寛齋の「元気」をスタッフと共に継承していきたいと思っておりますので、よろしくお願い申し上げます。 2020年7月27日 山本未來 ————————————————————— On July 21st, my father, Kansai Yamamoto, passed away at the age of 76. He left this world peacefully, surrounded by loved ones. In my eyes, my father was not only the eclectic and energetic soul that the world knew him as, but someone who was also thoughtful, kind-hearted, and affectionate. He valued communication and showered me with love throughout my entire life. He also taught me to persist throughout failures and to never let go of a positive, forward-looking mindset. He viewed challenges as opportunities for self-development and always believed in the brighter days ahead. I want to thank everyone who has touched my father’s life in some way, shape, or form. Without you, his legacy would not exist. I will continue supporting this legacy of my father through my work at KANSAI SUPER STUDIO, alongside my acting career. In doing so, I hope to spread Kansai Yamamoto’s spirit of “Genki” to the world. Sincerely, Mirai Yamamoto 7/27/2020 #kansaiyamamoto #山本寛斎

A post shared by Mirai Yamamoto 山本未來 (@miraiyamamoto_official) on

Bound to Stand Out

His so-called super-shows were staged around the world, with the 1993 “Hello!! Russia” edition, held in Moscow’s Red Square, drawing 120,000 spectators.

Yamamoto’s designs often incorporated elements from Japanese culture, and he famously dressed Bowie in a cape covered in Japanese kanji characters.

In recent years, he also drew on Kabuki theater for a collaboration with Louis Vuitton.

His eye-catching designs, replete with saturated colors and striking motifs, set him apart from many of Japan’s more minimalist fashion icons.

“Someone like me is bound to stand out in Japan,” he said in a 2017 interview with the Nikkei group.

But Yamamoto also argued that his work was rooted in a different but no less Japanese sensibility — the bold and unconventional aesthetics of Japanese medieval warlords.

“There are not many successors to this culture, but I think it is more suitable for me,” he said. 

Exuberant Clothes and Personality

Yamamoto’s exuberant clothes and personality belied a darkness he said stemmed from a difficult childhood

Hard Times

Yamamoto’s exuberant clothes and cheerful personality were belied, he said, by a darkness that stemmed from a difficult childhood.

His parents divorced when he was seven and he was sent to a children’s home hundreds of kilometers away.

He traveled with his two younger brothers — aged five and three — from Yokohama, next to Tokyo, to the far-flung southwestern province of Kochi.

“How much I envied the lights of happy families that I saw from the window of the slow train at dusk. It was lonely and I still can’t forget that.”

And while he was an instant success when he first presented his clothes in London in 1971, he faced a harsh reception initially in Paris, something he worked hard to overcome.

The key, Yamamoto said, was to “keep up the spirit of challenge”.

It was a mantra he lived by throughout his life, and in 2018 he declared his ambition to make it to the North Pole, a dream that was dashed by his diagnosis with leukemia.

“No life is ever full of good things,” he said in 2017.

“I’ve had a lot of hard times. But because there are hardships, the joy that comes from overcoming them is also great.”