At a time when fashion was a hidden cult, Yohji Yamamoto's seasonal advertising catalogs for his brand were so coveted and fetishized, they felt like illuminated texts for an image obsessed generation. The imagery explored in these publications influenced everything from music videos (Madonna's "Express Yourself" by David Fincher ) to the very practice of advertising campaigns (see the 90's Jil Sander ad inserts where artistic stance was more important than showcasing product). The funny thing about these catalogs is that you could only obtain them if you picked one up at the Yohji Yamamoto store or happened to be placed on a highly select mailing list.
I glimpsed the rare and precious artifacts in the living room of conceptual artist Ike Ude back in those 90's days of club-hopping and was mystified by the excess of detail that went into them. Internet pick-ups can't do true justice to the rigor of that immaculate printing, or the perversity of the Kirsten Owen catalog where art director Marc Ascoli insisted that the staples binding the inside fold of the black pages be also black, not the jarring silver-gray of the common place standard staple. The earliest issues that were the collaboration of Ascoli, Nick Knight and Peter Saville have gone down in legend. But equally prescient are the later catalogs (circa 1999) featuring the work of Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin in collaboration with M/M (Paris).
What gives these seminal catalogs a great resonance in our current fashion environment is the idea that by treating photography and art direction as an experimental form, the very medium of fashion advertising can be challenged to expansion. There is a tremor of this idea in the YSL Manifesto giveaway magazine that looms as a kind of small cultural event each fashion season. What would be really earth shattering however would be for more brands in fashion to think of their advertising as a part of cultural history. It's a big ambition yes, but things with big prices should come with a big scale of meaning behind them. That is something pointed that Yohji Yamamoto will leave behind as a part of his legacy.