To coincide with the retrospective exhibition of Yohji Yamamoto’s work at the V&A, SHOWstudio.com showcases a unique discussion between three collaborators who helped shape the visual identity of Yamamoto in the 1980s. In this 50-minute film shot in the V&A’s Norfolk House Music room, art director Marc Ascoli, fashion photographer Nick Knight and graphic designer and art director Peter Saville are in conversation with London College of Fashion curator Magdalene Keaney.
Nick Knight: I think that to see the work that we did in context, you have to look at the fashion magazines of 1986 and see what was going on in those fashion magazines. It was about a million miles away from what we did.
Peter Saville: Unfortunately, it is the beginning of where it all goes horribly wrong. I mean the coherence and the cohesion between what Yohji was doing on the other side of the world and then Marc’s position in Paris and then the part of the UK culture that Nick came from and then the part that I came from is beginning of what you would call convergence, what we do now call convergence. But it was, in a way, a quite positive and utopian convergence at that time.
Marc Ascoli: That’s true.
PS: Nick introduced me into the system, that bit came next … you do that bit … Nick, just finish that bit.
NK: So I’ll do my version of the history. I completed a hundred portraits through a woman who ran a model agency, a very good model agency, called Z Models. She used to find all the most interesting models – not the mainstream models … all the best models. She also looked around for different talent. Marc knew her, he asked her who was interesting in London at the moment and she introduced my work to Marc. Then Marc and I got on and he liked my work and I went across to Paris and Marc said OK, so do the photographs, I’ll art direct them, but who can create the – who can do the graphic design?
PS: Who said that? You said that?
NK: Marc said that. So I said well, there’s somebody who I’ve worked with over the past couple of years on and off, and I introduced Marc to Peter.
PS: So there was a convergence of mood between the three of us. All three on exactly the same wave length and it comes out in those first two catalogues.
NK: I knew a small amount about Yohji Yamamoto. He represented the beginnings of something very exciting but slightly away on the horizon. The world of fashion that I knew at the time – I was interested in the world of people like Lee Barry, Taboo, Michael Clark – very extreme. You’re talking about people who were taking almost performance art into fashion. So that was the sort of world that I was looking at and was attracted by. When Yohji Yamamoto first came along it really was a distant star, something exciting and appealing on the horizon. So in 1985 when Marc first came to see me, it was really a long way off, it hadn’t really quite got to London. It wasn’t really part of the fashion vernacular, it wasn’t what was going on, it wasn’t part of mainstream fashion. The reason I fell in love with it and the reason I ended up believing in it so firmly is it represented a very interesting vision of women. Previously in fashion women had been represented overtly sexually, especially in fashion imagery. You have got to think about what went on in the 1970s, with people like Wangenheim, Bourdin … It was an overtly sexual way of behaving and that was represented in photographers who chose fashion photography to talk about their sexual orientation or their sexual desires. And that was the mainstream. And I always felt really uncomfortable with that. When Yohji arrived, here was somebody proposing fashion which wasn’t about women articulating their sexuality as a primary way of behaving and that was what attracted me to it. I thought this is actually to do with seeing women as intellectual beings and not seeing them as sexual beings. It was enormously different to what was going on at the time and I thought it was enormously interesting.
Magdalene Keaney: So kind of starting to really hone in on the production of the catalogues and your work together. Again, we’ve talked around this a little bit. Can you describe the tension, if there was one or alternatively the joy of the kind of functionality of what a look book or a fashion seasonal catalogue is as a document.
NK: I have to stop you there, Magda. There’s a big difference between a look book …
MK: OK, the functionality of the catalogue, so either the tension or the joy, the other end of it between the kind of function …
PS: No joy – do you remember any joy?
MK: Between the functionality of the catalogue as a document or a commercial product, which it is in some way … or it operates in a commercial way.
PS: I mean it’s a work, a collective work of it’s own … this is a new way, not really done before. They were innovations in themselves.
NK: As I understood it, there was something that Yohji Yamamoto had created with Marc to se
1980年代にヨウジヤマモトのビジュアルアイデンティティをつくりだした3人のコラボレーター – マーク・アスコリ、ニック・ナイト、ピーター・サヴィルの鼎談
Postmodernism is the notoriously slippery subject tacked by the V&A’s exhibition, ‘Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990’. This fast-paced film features some of the most important living Postmodern practitioners, Charles Jencks, Robert A M Stern and Sir Terry Farrell among them, and asks them how and why Postmodernism came about, and what it means to be Postmodern.
Andrew Logan: Post modernism – yes, I still really don’t understand what post modernism is. I’ve been told many times and it’s been explained to me many times and I still am bewildered. But perhaps that’s part of the movement – bewilderment.
Malcolm Garrett: I don’t think I really know too much about what post modernism actually is. For me, it’s primarily an architectural movement.
Robert A M Stern: Post modernism was a kind of style and it was kind of outrageous style at that.
Zandra Rhodes: I think we’re originals, but it wasn’t until I got spoken to by the V&A that I thought about anything that was post modern.
The way I worked I described as retrievalism.
Charles Jencks: The Independent said do use the word ‘post modernism’ because it means absolutely nothing and everything.
Malcolm Garrett: I called myself a new futurist for a while. So that’s a term I would use rather than post modernism.
Andrew Logan: Well, I suppose I had a very post modernist occurrence – I took acid. Normal things suddenly turned into something extraordinary.
Zandra Rhodes: Well, in 1977 punk was just starting to happen and I thought why not do tears that actually look like tears and then got safety pins and beaded round them like 12 years before Versace.
Malcolm Garrett: I had access to the first photocopier and I was able to modify and change the look of the image using a photocopier.
Peter Saville: And, of course, in the 70s and into the 80s the record cover was this incredibly important, vital medium of visual information. There were the music papers and occasionally the Sunday Times colour supplement might just do something about Andy Warhol in New York and that would be about it.
Paula Scher: In the 70s when I first started designing there was a predominance of the international style where the ultimate goal was to be clean and I always felt that that was like trying to clean up your room. So I was looking for ways of designing typography that could be more expressive, that were not about creating order but were about creating spirit.
Robert A M Stern: Times Square was where we were in charge – the whole revitalisation of Times Square is a very interesting, complicated story, but it does show the difference between the modernist point of view of how to redevelop or to develop a city and what we were able to do …
Charles Jencks: Post modern architecture is really to do with pluralism. You’ll find its depth, all of the great post modernism, the philosophy and now in literature, is about pluralism, pluralism, pluralism.
Robert A M Stern: To say, no, no, it’s a mess, in fact we ought to make it more of a mess. The world comes to Times Square not for tidykins, but for mess.
Charles Jencks: It’s accepting that the modern world with Freud, Marx, Henry Ford, mass production, is positive, but it can be radically improved.
Robert A M Stern: We studied the signage in Times Square and then we set minimums, minimums for sizes of signs, minimums for brightness of signs. What we were legislating in a way the capitalist impulse. Once you tell an entrepreneur that his or her sign can only be this big, he will be satisfied, he will agree with it. But if you say it can be this big or bigger or brighter, well everybody wants to compete in a capitalist society.
Charles Jencks: So you have to be on the one hand ironic about failures, probably the beginning of a new depression, another crisis of modernism, modernisation, modernity. What’s going to get us out of this? We have to re-think the modern movements in all the arts and in society and post modernism is the umbrella term for re-thinking.
Robert A M Stern: We knew 42nd Street was an incredible success when the Consolidated Edison Company called the State of New York and said, you know our grid is zapped out.
Peter Saville: In the case of, particularly, Joy Division and then New Order, they could never exactly agree amongst themselves. There was no hierarchical structure, particularly in New Order after the end of Joy Division, after Ian Curtis had died. The responsibility for the covers came to me and so they were about what I was interested in, they were about in a way beginning to learn the canon.
Carol McNicoll: The thing that I was doing was I was using slip casting. A lot of the Leach tradition and minimalist things also had that idea of expressing the deep, inner, mystic qualities of clay. And I thought that was a load of complete rubbish. And I thought what was wonderful about clay was the fact that you could make it look like anything else.
V&Aの展覧会「Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990」に合わせて収録された、ポストモダニズムの実践者たちへのインタビュー集。チャールズ・ジェンクス、ロバート・A・M・スターン、ザンドラ・ローズ、ピーター・サヴィルなど。