Yohji Yamamoto Inc., a fashion house famous for its austere black designer clothes, filed for bankruptcy protection on Oct. 9, a victim of slumping sales as Japanese women turn to cheaper casual outfits during a prolonged economic downturn.
The company’s debts total six billion yen ($67 million), exceeding its assets. However, under Japan’s corporate rehabilitation law, the designer house will continue to operate at home and abroad. Founder and designer Yohji Yamamoto will continue to work. The bankruptcy filing reflects hard economic times in Japan.
Fashion conscious Japanese women have turned to cheaper casual clothes amid the economic slump. In contrast to high-end fashion houses like Yamamoto, demand for low-cost clothes is booming in Japan.
Fast Retailing Co., which runs the hugely popular Uniqlo low-cost clothing chain, enjoyed record sales, while Swedish casual fashion brand Hennes & Mauritz AB, which opened its first shop in Japan last year, is rapidly expanding its stores in Tokyo.
Along with Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons, Yamamoto shook up the fashion world in the 1980s with his black and white minimalist dresses.
When Yamamoto first showed his designs in Paris in 1981, he was met with stares of incomprehension. A decade later, they had become a uniform for the fashion community.
Yamamoto is also known for his signature draping or simple cutting. The designer has also branched out into couture-style clothes for women and has collaborated with Japanese director Takeshi Kitano, designing costumes for his films.