The list of the world’s style and cultural icons is one that overlaps quite a bit. What would Madonna be without her Jean Paul Gaultier cone bra? Or Lady Gaga without…you know…everything else? Fashion designers and public figures have a unique symbiotic relationship that often results in fantastic PR and, if they’re lucky, indelible images that long outlive their creators.
One such fruitful relationship is that of David Bowie and Kansai Yamamoto. In 1971, Yamamoto was the first Japanese designer to show a collection in London, getting the attention of the Western fashion world and the Bowie camp just in time for a Ziggy Stardust tour. What resulted catapulted both figures into a spotlight that really hasn’t left them since. Yamamoto is still a relevant public figure in Japan, staging spectacle events and licensing eyewear under his namesake brand, while Bowie remains the patron saint of cool to hordes of latter generations.
Illustration by Michelle Ricks of Kansai Yamamoto cape, bodysuit, chaps, and clogs (1971)
Photos (L to R): Kansai Yamamoto with David Bowie – 1973 – photographer unknown, David Bowie – On stage as Ziggy Stardust in Kansai Yamamoto – photographer unknown, Kate Moss in David Bowie’s Kansai Yamamoto knitted bodysuit – photographed by Nick Knight for Vogue UK May 2003