Dear Mr. Yamamoto,
I remember the day we met. It was 1988 and I was at fashion college. I borrowed a book from the library. It was called New Fashion Japan*. Amidst it’s pages one of the most iconic fashion images of the eighties. A back view from the waist down. Long white shirt over pleated black skirt. Leather laced booties. Texture, movement, architecture – all in glorious black and white minimalism. The student was ready and the teacher had appeared.
I flirted with you, Mr. Yamamoto, during those college years. We went on dates with pleats and lacing, blowing great billows of white cotton sails onto my dressmaker’s form. Crushing linen and folding it, swathing it, winding it around sugar bag waisted, voluminous black cropped peasant pants. Oh, our long hot nights folding and draping till the early hours, Mr. Yamamoto! But good times are always soon over and I was too young to appreciate what we had together.
The early nineties were our wilderness years, Mr. Yamamoto. I went to work for a commercial fashion studio where artless appliqué was the order of the day. I lost my way in a sea of small cotton floral prints. I was drowning in conservative dirndl skirts with matching scrunchies, but in the middle of the nineties you threw me a life preserver. You reinvented with lyrical, historical elements. You were back, and our love was reignited. It felt more mature this time. I had moved on from my adolescent fumblings and experiments. I had more confidence now. My cutting was more disciplined, my process calmer, surer. We had come through those difficult years but I missed the exuberant passion of our youth.
The year 2000 arrived and I left you again. I had to follow the times, Mr. Yamamoto. Lead astray, I was running with a bad crowd in a rock chick label. I put the pedal to the metal and made Swarovski crystal bedazzled cobalt polyester dresses for celebrity clients. I was swept away from you into the fast lane of body-con. I won’t lie to you Mr. Yamamoto, it was fun, a furious car chase through garish, synthetic fabrics and glittering gew-gaws. But Mr. Yamamoto, after a few years I felt empty, spent. I had wandered far from my tailoring roots. I had lost my balance. I sat by a little stream and listened.
‘What do I need?’ I asked the little stream. ‘You need to drape,’ whispered the little stream. ‘It is only by draping that you will recover your equilibrium.’
I took the advice of the little stream, Mr. Yamamoto, and I went to work as a developer for an up and coming international label. I worked with panné velvets and silk jerseys that ran through my hands like water. I walked into the stream and I draped for all I was worth Mr. Yamamoto.
Sometime later, in Paris, I turned into the Rue Cambon. I walked into your temple – white, vast white. I remembered the lessons Mr. Yamamoto. I remembered those long hot nights, pleating and swathing. Only three figures amid the vast whiteness of your temple. All that was needed. Three archangels of black on black minimalism. I bathed in your master tailoring, your cartridge pleats, billowing blouson sleeves, finely wrought flys. I was home again Mr. Yamamoto.
It’s been twenty-seven years now since our affair began. The library stamp in the front of the book gives the date we met as August 15, 1988. You see I still have the book Mr. Yamamoto. I forgot to take it back to the library. I’m not sorry either. I will keep it always as a memento of our early years together.