Kansai Yamamoto has died at the age of 76. Yamamoto’s daughter Miki Yamamoto took to Instagram to reveal the news of her father’s death — July 21. The prolific Japanese designer was battling acute myeloid leukaemia, which he disclosed back in March.
In many ways, Yamomoto’s designs were well ahead of his time, and it’s evident in photos of his 1971 London Fashion Week debut. He broke onto the scene with a distinctive flair for androgynous styles, crafting revealing knit playsuits, silk capes and other flamboyant layers inspired by the Japanese concept of Basara which challenged tradition. The runway was lined with models dressed as Kabuki actors wearing garments imbued with rich Ukiyo-e woodblock prints and offset by light tailoring and big leather tube belts. He also designed some of David Bowie‘s most defining looks, a major factor contributing to the birth of the artist’s Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane personas in the early ’70s. In a 2016 interview, Yamamoto described his collaboration with the singer: “some sort of chemical reaction took place: My clothes became part of David, his songs and his music. They became part of the message he delivered to the world.” The designer went into retirement with his final collection in 1992. Yamamoto’s David Bowie costumes can be seen at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.