Yohji Yamamoto files for bankruptcy

The global recession has claimed another fashion house, this time the cult brand Yohji Yamamoto. The company last week filed for bankruptcy, although it has been reported that at the eleventh hour Yamamoto reached an agreement with Integral Corp, a Japanese investment firm.

With debts of about ¥6bn (£42m), the company blamed slow sales and a decrease in demand during a time of general economic slowdown. “I concentrated too hard on making clothes and left too much responsibility on higher management,” the crestfallen designer told a press conference in Tokyo yesterday, only a week after he had presented his spring/summer 2010 collection to fashion press and buyers in Paris.

The label, founded in 1972, will continue trading internationally for the time being. But Yamamoto is the latest company to suffer in a string of bankruptcy claims in Japan, where high-end fashion retail is being squeezed by a boom in budget clothing.

This week, Versace announced that it was liquidating its operations in the country, 30 years after opening its first shop there. And last year, Louis Vuitton scrapped plans for a 12-floor megastore in Ginza, Tokyo’s busiest and most exclusive shopping district.

While the homegrown budget brand Uniqlo chalked up a record year, Yamamoto has seen its market shrink.

“The company has also suffered because of the fall in consumption and excess levels of debt,” a statement released said. The company also blamed the strength of the Yen for its plight.

Yamamoto, who turned 66 last week, first arrived on the international fashion circuit in 1981. Along with Rei Kawakubo at Comme des Garçons, he spearheaded the avant garde movement then emerging from Japan.

His label is known for its unstructured and deconstructed tailoring, inspired by traditional Japanese men’s workwear, and for its plain collections solely in black, which earned the moniker “Hiroshima chic” within the fashion industry.

Such was the enormity of Yamamoto’s and Kawakubo’s colour choice, when other brands were firmly focused on bright shades and conspicuous status, that the women who bought and wore their pieces were known as “the crows” in Japan.

Often described as “intelligent clothes”, Yamamoto attracts intellectual customers who appreciate the hidden complexities of his work. Such complexities and studied simplicity do not come cheap, of course, and the label’s higher prices may have contributed to its insolvency.

Image: Yohji Yamamoto

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