David Bowie first wore Kansai Yamamoto’s Avant-garde fashion designs in 1972 at the height of Ziggy Stardust mania. The two met in person a year later and forged a working relationship that would help cement Bowie as a icon, not only for the androgynous, glam rock times, but also as a timeless rock star for the modern age. On the eve of a special Fashion in Motion event at the V&A we speak to Kansai.
How did Bowie come about your designs for the first time?
It is probably through the stylist/producer of my London show, Ms. Yasuko Takahashi. She provided Bowie with some of the costumes from my London show for his photo shoot. She asked me permission to use them, and I said yes, but actually I did not know who David Bowie was at that time.
Can you tell us about the first time you met him?
It was the night of Bowie’s concert at the Radio City Music Hall in New York. I heard it was very important show for him to break into the U.S. market. Ms. Yasuko Takahashi insisted that I fly to New York to see his show as he was using items from my collection. I met him after the show and we immediately bonded. Our relationship developed from there.
You've said that there was a common ground in that you were both influenced by kabuki theatre- can you tell me about that?
I have always been influenced by Kabuki for sure. Kabuki’s origin of the word is ‘kabuku’ which refers to behave freely and the aesthetic of comporting oneself flamboyantly and dressing with stylish extravagance. This aesthetic lay at the heart of my work as a fashion designer, which was totally different from what anybody else was doing. The outfits I designed for Bowie were created from these aspirations.
Did Bowie ever vocalize his intentions around creating the Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane characters and how did your costumes feed into that?
We, Japanese have a strong sense of color together with a love of the pop, which can be seen in the kimono that feature bold designs such as skulls, ribbed umbrellas and dragonflies. I think this comes from having four distinct seasons and variety of flora and fauna. To fuse such essence of Japanese design with western fashion and find my own voice in the design. That was my challenge.
Fashion in Motion: Kansai Yamamoto will be at the V&A on November 1. Watch Fashion in Motion live via facebook.com/victoriaandalbertmuseum at 13.00 & 17.00 GMT, November 1.