In late August, rumors began spinning through the voluble Supreme social media rumor mill that the streetwear powerhouse would soon release a collection with the legendary Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto. Now, after weeks of speculation, it is confirmed: Yohji Yamamoto is Supreme’s latest collaborator.
“A master craftsman with a rebellious spirit, Yohji’s transformative impact is felt far beyond the runway,” an announcement on Supreme’s website states, describing his “masterful draping and playful androgyny.” The collection, which will be available on Thursday, September 17 (and the 19th in Japan), is heavy on outerwear, with a leather jacket, work jacket, and parka, plus a sweater, two sweatshirts, a beanie, and an assortment of T-shirts. Perhaps most exciting, the master of experimental suiting will combine forces with Supreme’s own cult tailoring offerings for a wool suit.
As reports continued to crop up online, some high-fashion twitterati and armchair hypebeasts questioned why fashion’s greatest working avant-gardist is collaborating with the New York skate brand. The name Yohji Yamamoto stands for the ultimate antiestablishment attitude—antifashion, even. But a deeper look shows that Yamamoto, or Yohji-san, as he is lovingly referred to in the industry, is something of a soulmate for Supreme.
Yohji-san may be the antithesis of hype—a designer who emphasizes extreme individuality, known for garments that beckon contemplation—but he is a kind of godfather of the mischievous attitude at the heart of Supreme (though, of course, Jebbia and team perform theirs with a bit more faux bravado than Yohji-san). The punkish Yohji-san, after all, is no misty minimalist on the mountaintop; as the exhibition catalog for a 2006 landmark series of exhibitions on his work notes, “Excess is first of all a way of life…. Excess is also a remedy for routine and boredom, a way of confounding others’ expectations of oneself, of provoking astonishment by contravening yet again the moral and bourgeois values that often make virtue, discipline and success into a single quality. For Yamamoto, disorder, indiscipline, and behavioural [sic] swings in the private sphere seem to illuminate and enrich his public being...and his fashion.”
Indeed, Yohji-san’s philosophy has long been in conversation with Supreme’s, by coincidence or otherwise. In 2007, he spiked his fall collection with a handful of looks parodying designers’ burgeoning obsession with logos and the industry’s increasingly corporate atmosphere, with a YY motif mocking Louis Vuitton’s Japonisme logo print—about seven years after Supreme did the same with their Vuitton bootleg skate decks. The designer’s Y-3 collaboration with Adidas, launched in 2002, was an unprecedented partnership between an athletic brand and a luxury fashion designer, and created the blueprint for the past decade and a half of collaborations, especially the mythical mergers of streetwear brands with couturier-level designers that peaked with Kim Jones’s 2018 Vuitton collection with Supreme.
New interest in Yamamoto’s work has been quietly building over the past year—what we at GQ deemed the Yohjissance in July. Rick Owens interviewed him for the cover of System last November, and his influence is seen on everyone from young designers like Nicholas Daley and Evan Kinori to more established brands like Valentino. The RealReal told me earlier this spring that searches for the designer’s work were up 66% over last year's—and, undoubtedly, the collaboration will only increase interest in his work on the secondary market. (The RealReal also told me that searches and purchases for designers surge when a brand announces a collaboration or new appointment—when Matthew Williams joined Givenchy, for example, searches for Alyx9SM went up 70%, and when Virgil Abloh was appointed to Vuitton, searches for Off-White went up a whopping 600%.)
The closure of several independent stores in New York over the past year and a half mean that, aside from the Supreme collab, IF Boutique in SoHo is possibly the only place New Yorkers can shop for the latest Yohji Yamamoto collections in person—including his fall 2020 collection, one of his finest and clearest. But the brand has been dutifully building out its web store over the past year. Buying a piece of Yohji Yamamoto is truly building a collection—you wear it for life, because you can believe in it for life. Whether you cop one of the Supreme pieces, a beret from the fall collection, or one of those vintage asymmetrical jackets, let the Yohjissance commence in full force!