TOKYO: Sayoko Yamaguchi – The Wearist, Clothed in the Future

‘Sayoko Yamaguchi wearing Issey Miyake’. Photo by Noriaki Yokosuka, 1975.

Japan’s top model Sayoko Yamaguchi (1949-2007) embodied the mysterious beauty of the East when she blazed a new trail through the white-girl-dominated fashion stage in the 1970s. Yamaguchi started modelling after graduating from Sugino Gakuen. Back then she had no intention of becoming a model, and always thought it took more than being pretty to create a style. However, her trademark Japanese doll look – straight short bob hairstyle with buns reaching to her almond-shaped eyes – seemed to be exactly what the Japanese New Look was searching for in the 1970s. Consequently, westerners saw Yamaguchi as the direction of Oriental beauty.

Yamaguchi made her Paris debut in 1972 which led to her career breakthrough as top Japanese designers like Kenzo Takada, Issey Miyake and Kansai Yamamoto gained success in the fashion capital during the 70s and 80s. She subsequently remained active as both creator and performer, implying her role as not merely a model. Interestingly, Yamaguchi never called herself a model but a ‘wearist’, from which the exhibition takes its name. In the 2000s, during her final years, she carried out collaborations with a new generation of artists, such as Yasunori Ikunishi, Yasunori Kakegawa, Fuyuki Yamakawa, Naohiro Ugawa, and exonemo, remaining at the forefront of the times. The exhibition “Sayoko Yamaguchi – The Wearist, Clothed in the Future” presents photos, scrapbooks, film clips and mannequins, bringing the renowned model back to life in the spring of 2015.

Maria Mao Cui

Yasunori Ikunishi & Yasunori Kakegawa: ‘H.I.S. Landscape’ (Roppongi Crossing). Mori Art Museum, 2004

Youkiza Performance: ‘Pelléas et Mélisande’. Stage photograph, 1992.

Museum Of Contemporary Art, Tokyo 2015

Museum Of Contemporary Art, Tokyo 2015

Museum Of Contemporary Art, Tokyo 2015

Sayoko Yamaguchi – The Wearist, Clothed in the Future

Museum of Contemporary Art, Metropolitan Kiba Park, 4-1-1 Miyoshi, Koto-ku / 81 (0)3 5245 4111

On view through June 28 2015 

Images courtesy of superfuture and Timeout Tokyo

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