'I don’t want to live unnoticed’: pioneering Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto dies aged 76

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Kansai Yamamoto, attends the Louis Vuitton Resort 2018 show at the Miho Museum in Koka, Japan.  (Photo by Jean Chung/Getty Images)
Kansai Yamamoto, attends the Louis Vuitton Resort 2018 show at the Miho Museum in Koka, Japan. (Photo by Jean Chung/Getty Images)
Jean Chung/Getty Images

Acclaimed Japanese fashion designer, Kansai Yamamoto died at the age of 76 on 21 July 2020. This comes after he developed leukemia in February of 2020. His daughter Mirai Yamamoto  took to Instagram to confirm the news on 27 July 2020.  

Best known for his avant-garde shapes, gender defiant pieces and unapologetic use of colours and patterns, Yamamoto came into prominence during the glam rock era of the 1970s. During this time he collaborated with David Bowie to produce a series of garments for Bowie’s role as Ziggy Stardust. The singer first came across Yamamoto’s work in 1971 when he was the first Japanese designer to present at London Fashion Week.   

His aesthetic blends fantasy with Japanese motifs, like those seen in kabuki theatre. In addition to Bowie, his designs saw him working with the likes of John Lennon, Lady Gaga and Louis Vuitton. Although his clothes are generally worn by women, Yamamoto’s practice in fashion was free of the confines of gender. 

Describing his life and work while backstage to one of his shows in 2016, Yamamoto said “It is clear that I don’t want to live unnoticed”. 

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