Dear Mr Yamamoto. A love letter.

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.

image-1

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 or 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.

Love Alice

*New Fashion Japan. By Leonard Koren. Published by Kodansha International, 1984.
*New Fashion Japan. By Leonard Koren. Published by Kodansha International, 1984.


 

 

Just say no to polar fleece!

2015 marks my friend Gill’s first adventure to Europe. I asked her what she was planning to take. She spoke at length about the virtues and practicalities of zip off khaki pants and her plans to team them back with a sleeveless polar fleece jacket, and top the whole ensemble off with a hat that, although making her look like some kind of mushroom, would effectively keep her protected from sunburn.
I offered that as well as protecting her from sunburn, this hat would also effectively protect her from all potential social interaction whilst on holiday. I went on to suggest that people in stylish European cities would likely cross the street to avoid having to look at the hat. And don’t even get me started on what I said about the whole polar fleece and zip off pants debacle…

Now if Gill walks into a smart bar in Paris expecting to blend in with locals…well she may as well hang a sign around her neck…

image-2

As my friend Ms. Isobel says: ‘You’ve got an accent. Guys will wanna pick you up. It’s not hard ladies. Leave the polar fleece for the next time you scale K2.’

Now of course if you want to visit Paris armoured in polar fleece – as you were. If your intention is just to stare at the Eiffel Tower and keep warm whilst doing it – as you were. If the only attention you crave is that of other polar fleece fanciers, again, as you were.

If however, you’d like to chat with locals, maybe catch the eye of a potential paramour, all I’m saying is maybe polar fleece and an unattractive hat is not your best option. Most Parisians already want to avoid the legions of tourists that infest their glorious nougat city.

Travel offers you the perfect opportunity to reinvent your style – even if that means just investing in a brand new polar fleece instead of taking the one with all the pilling under the arms and the salsa stain down the front that never came out after that night…

We staged an intervention with Gill. Here’s what happened:

image-3

Sateen cotton cuffed pant: Esprit – found brand new in an op shop for $5. Scarf and shoes: Alice’s. Belt and Princess Highway top: Gill’s own.

image-1

Short Trench: D&G, found brand new in an op shop for $30. Boat necks and stripes suit everyone. If you don’t own any striped Tees – buy some immediately. If you don’t own skinny jeans, try them on and see. Just don’t kneel down in them for long periods of time and clean the kitchen cupboards.

image

Cotton sateen dress worn with a jacket found in an op shop for $15. (Substitute a denim jacket and red converse for a more casual look.)

Here’s what Gill said:
‘Thank-you, I owe you my life. Now that you’ve showed me the error of my ways, I feel confident to embrace my bright future as a fabulous independent world traveller. From now on I will always read your blog. And I promise I will throw away the hat.’