Guru in a foreign world Yohji Yamamoto says he hates fashion. Nevertheless, the Japanese is one of the most sought-after designers. He has worked with the dramatist Heiner Müller at Bayreuth and designed sports shoes for adidas. A conversation. Mr Yamamoto, how would you finish the following sentence: To take a break would mean to me... You know I'm very indifferent to the question: What will be next? It doesn't interest me. I only know that my instincts work flawlessly. So I breathe in and out and sense what's ahead for me. It's that simple. At the same time, you can be sure that I put out a greast effort not to fall into the mainstream of the fashion world. What was your question again? To take a break means to me... you should finish that sentence. I like to talk to myself and always say to myself Take a break! Next sentence: It is important to me to ... Life, space. To be free. Not to have responsibilities. But you have two children... Yes, that's true. And I feel guilty towards them. Why that? I am sorry for having put them into the world. It's not their fault. Life isn't easy and the moment you find out life is real, you are condemned to fight, to suffer. You yourself had a tough childhood, born just after the end of the war. Yes this was very tough. How have our parents suffered! They have experienced a real, terrible war. My mother was a war widow early on, and therefore I as an only child always tried hard to be a good boy. Today it seems to me as though I had been acting all this time. To be good is not easy. When did you stop playing the good boy? Never. I still do. Right now, for instance. Does your mother know what line of work you are in? She pretends to do so, acknowledges may work, but never stops demanding: »You're the only son. You have to take care of me. I don't want to be alone.« She also works for my firm. We live a few feet apart. We see each other every day! Every day? Yes, but she is never happy, always making demands. That has its good side too. You always have to be a good, kind, hardworking boy! At about 40 years of age I went on a tough course of confrontation with her and I always said: Enough is enough, Mother! But nowadays I am tender again, because I understood what suffering she has been through through my father's death in the war. So you are a sort of surrogate father for your mother? You could say so. Isn't it like this: At first, you fight the parents, then you return to them? Yes, that's probably the case with everyone. What does travelling mean to you? To be constantly travelling back and forth between Tokyo and Paris? That has nothing to do with vacation, that's fulfilment of duty. How does you quest for freedom find expression in your work? (Long break, he thinks). Ever since I began my career I have always questioned fashion, I could also put it that way: I hate fashion. From the beginning until today? Yes, I may be making fashion in the sense of craftmanship, but I hate the world of fashion. Why do you hate it? Fashion sighs after trends. I want timeless elegance. Fashion has no time. I do. I say.: Hello Lady, how can I help you? Fashion has no time to even ask such a question, because it is constantly concerned with finding out: What will come next? It is more about helping women to suffer less, to attain more freedom and independence. Mr Yamamoto, do you have time rhythms of you own, especially formed work flows, individual cycles against the something-new-every-half-year formula of the fashion world? I try to have my own rhythm. But I don't think I have any. You know, I have to cope with a very important contradiction: I am the man who hates fashion but works in the fashion world. What have you given women with your fashion so far? My early work have always made tha point: Women should also be allowed to dress like men. When I was studying, women in Japan were always wearing costumes and looked like puppets. I didn't like that. At the same time I though. Women in military uniform: How sexy! You say: beauty results form flaws, mistakes, imperfections, coincidence. Why? If things fit too perfectly, everything looks like a sculpture not like fashion. To put it another was – and allow me to be a little childish: I have never fallen in love with models. They look like machines not like humans. I only see the faults, flaws, the imperfections. That attracts me. I'll give you some terms and you tell me what you connect with them, OK? The first term is: minimalism. Just another word for sloth. German culture? (Laughs). German culture? Adidas, Pina Bausch, Heiner Müller, Barenboim, Bayreuth? And Wim Wenders. Yes, him too. Is there something about German mentality in the German way of thinking that you like? I think a lot about that question . Why do I deal so much with Germans? You know I think it is simply that the first instance, the first minute I met the people you named I thought, or better, felt: I already know that one. We know each other from before, from a different era. There is something we share. There was a sense of familiarity as though you kow each otehr from a long time ago. Something like telepathy if you like. You don't have to say much. And one last term: Wagner. Tristan und Isolde. Heiner Müller wated to tear down all conventions of opera. To invent a new opera. He gave me the assignment to break with all rules and I made my best effort to do so. Today it seems to me as though we had been little children and we screamed against a high and strong wall: tradition. Again: Why do so many Germans turn up in your biography? No idea. How about adidas? Why not Nike? I found them pleasantly unfashionable. Nike was always too fashionable, too fast for me. Adidas: sleepy, German… Craftmanship, tradition, heritage. The three stripes. How did you get together with adidas in the first place? It's a simple story. I wanted to take on sneakers into my collection and asked my assistant to call adidas. The rest worked out by itself. No contract. Simple collaboration. Each helped the other. Give and take. Over time, the whole thing became more and more serious. Adidas wanted me to become part of the company, to design a collection for them, then came the contract, now we work together. Did you study the company history? I was given a guided tour through the company archives, which has inspired me very much. I like old things. I was a beginner in the area of sports fashion, senakers, but one thing was clear to em from the beginning: the stuff out on the market is horrible. This can only get better. I paid a visit ot the Nike World Store in New York, stood before the shelves and had to scream, because I found everything so horrible. The shoes seemed like monsters to me - high-tech monsters. Some look like computers, ghettoblasters. Implants, artificial. How does your sneaker look like? Less like Monster. Does your work address out society, politics, the world at large? I say: Sit down, calm down, you are turning in a carousel that moves too fast. Fashion has lost respect of clothing My job is to regain the respect for clothing. Merchandising and advertising have become too powerful, too dominant during the last few years. I say: Wait a moment, slow down! Does the system destroy itself? Beauty fades. Why? The acceleration of things prevents thinking about it. Doubts are excluded. All follow. Until everything looks like everything else. A sort of equalization. With brand names. Yes, exactly. Logos go around. Soulless brands made by machines. Have you ever thought about quitting? Yes, just about two years ago. So? I suffered. I fought against the thought. Then I thought to myself: Come in, thought. All of a sudden nothing mattered to me. I'll go on. But in reality, you are doing an interview with a designer who has been retired for along time. Do you like sports? Other than Kung Fu? I don't do Kung-Fu. I only like Karate. No Tennis, Soccer, Jogging. Karate is my thing, because it is like playing the piano to me. To take piano lessons, I like that. Ever since I was twelve years old. How about your music? One day I listened to your CD... Forget it. You`ve recorded several. We've shut down the music department. I had an entire music production. Closed. How sad. I thought it was good. You also sang... Also. A little bit like Leonard Cohen. That's enough. Cut it out! Interview by Claudia Riedel. Yohji Yamamoto shocked the international fashion world in 1981 with his Paris debut. The newcomer's collection, which was entirely kept in black – with models with a dark look on thir face and the sound of a beating heart as accompanying melody – became above all for the younger desinger generation a welcome counterpart to the colorful, crazy drafts of that era. Yamamoto was born in Tokyo in 1943, his father died in World War II. He grew up alone with his mother, who made her living as a seamstress. For her sake, he studied law at first, but than broke off his studies in favor of training as a designer at Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo. In 1971, Yamamoto brought his first collection to the market. One year later, he founded the Prêt-à-porter women's line Y. The first Men's line followed in 1979. To this date, Yohji Yamamoto is the only Japanese who has been given the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres, the medal of honor of France. In Spring 2003, he created the a catwalk collection for the sports goods maker Adidas with Y-3. His latest collections can also be seen in this week's major shows.