Accidental Icon: Yohji Yamamoto National Guard and/or Avant-Garde?

"I make clothing like armor. I wanted to protect the clothes themselves from fashion, and at the same time protect the woman’s body from something – maybe from men’s eyes or a cold wind." Yohji Yamamoto

Perhaps because of the bone chilling cold weather or maybe just because I feel vulnerable today, I wanted to write about the idea of clothing as protection. I recently viewed the documentary, “Notebook on Cities and Clothes”, a kind of philosophical meditation between the filmmaker Wim Wenders and Yohji Yamamoto. The filmmaker enters the experience by reflecting on a shirt and jacket he had recently acquired bearing the designer’s label. Despite his oft-articulated distain for fashion, this clothing made him feel protected “like a knight in his armor”. Wender poses the question, “What did Yamamoto know about me…about everybody?” 

Upon reflection I have to say that on the days that I feel in need of protection I seem to reach for those pieces in my wardrobe designed by Yohji Yamamoto. Layered, comfortable, often oversized and enveloping I always feel warm and safe. In response to Wender’s question, I think what Yamamoto knows about everyone is that as humans we are never perfect, are in fact quite flawed and when we are aware of this we feel vulnerable. His clothes make the ideal of perfection seem mundane and disorder, failure, and unfinished business become beautiful.  Clothing that is irregular in shape with torn, ripped or ragged fabrics and hems makes us feel as though we can be messy, defiant, unfinished and perhaps even a little “rough around the edges” yet still be beautiful, seductive and feminine in the spaces between our clothes and our body. 

The photos this week are taken at the place generally considered to be the prototype model of an urban armory: The Seventh Regiment Armory. Like Yamamoto’s clothing, this building was built for protection but also to promote art and beauty. An immense bronze gate protects the entrance. Beyond the gate is the door which is solid oak, about half a foot in thickness, with raised square panels and the rails and stiles studded with bronze rivets. Built in 1880 as both a military facility and a social club, the reception rooms on the first floor and the Company Rooms on the second floor were designed by the most prominent designers and artists of the era including Louis Comfort Tiffany, Stanford White, Herter Brothers and Pottier & Stymus.  Currently the space has been transformed into a cultural center that showcases avant-garde works spanning all art forms that cannot be shown in conventional museums and galleries. I am looking forward to a specially commissioned piece by Laurie Anderson in October 2015.

Visit Accidental Icon again this week on Wednesday for clothing details and Friday for more about the other designer I am wearing: Andre Walker.

Who or what do you wear when you feel in need of protection?