The old building of Bunka Fashion College. At an orientation session for the teacher's course, I met the woman who would later become my first wife, and we began dating. (Photo courtesy of Bunka Fashion College)

I had to put off finding a job: Yohji Yamamoto (9)

So I enrolled at Bunka Fashion College and learned of a career called design

When I returned home from my wandering around the globe, my fellow students had already found jobs. I, however, wanted more of my moratorium days and had no intention of finding work. I wanted to remain a student as long as possible. I went ahead and laid this all out to my mother.

"I thought maybe I could help you out at the shop..."

At that moment surprise and disappointment washed over my mother's face. Then her expression turned hard, and she sat, silent as a clam. She could not bring herself to look at me.

My mother had lost her husband to war and her only son must have been her "ray of hope." The reason she went to a dressmaking school, opened her own shop and worked so hard was so I could graduate from a top university and get a job at a major company. She had planned to eventually close her shop. But now her son was saying he wanted to help her at the store.

She remained silent for several weeks. Finally, after calming down somewhat, she told me:

"Yohji, if you're serious about helping at the shop, you should go to dressmaking school and at least learn how to cut cloth so the seamstresses don't make fun of you."

(Great, I've got it!)

I shouted this to myself, elated that I could continue life as a student.

In spring 1966, I graduated from Keio University and went to study at Bunka Fashion College, which my mother had also attended. It was not as if I had a clear plan for the future. I only offered to help out at the store as a way to quickly win another moratorium.

I strongly felt that I had already paid my obligations to my mother by giving up on attending Geidai and going to Keio instead. I promised myself that from now on I would stop playing the role of a good boy and live my life as I wanted to.

The teacher's course of study at Bunka Fashion College was a "garden of women". Out of 70 students, only three or four were male.

"Is this seat open?"

Toshiko Ota, who would later become my first wife, sat next to me at the class orientation. She was the youngest daughter of the head of a transport company in Kitakyushu. She was beautiful, and I liked her pure and innocent personality, being raised without having to worry about life's struggles. Naturally, we started dating.

In our studies, we learned the basics of cutting and sewing from scratch. With unaccustomed hands, I learned how to hold a needle, put on a thimble, tack and stitch. But no matter what I did, I could not compete with the younger female students. This painful training lasted for a year.

At that time, my lecturer advised me, "There is a job called design, where men can also express themselves". I decided to enter the design course in my second year. It seems the school wanted to train me properly, since I was a graduate of Keio. I liked to draw, and I took pride in being good at it. However, ashamed to say, until then I did not know that the profession of fashion designer even existed.

The most interesting class in the design course was taught by Ms. Chie Koike, who would later become the president of the school. Right before the class started, she would explain the latest information on the fashions in Paris using foreign magazines. We called this "morning service".

The only thing that bothered me was being compared to the "flowers of the ninth class" - Kenzo Takada, Junko Koshino, Mitsuhiro Matsuda and Isao Kaneko. They had been enrolled eight years earlier and were blooming as popular fashion designers. Kenzo, in particular, was a favorite of Ms. Koike.

"You all are so boring compared to them."

Anytime she saw us, she would talk down to us. Although I think it was a kind of loving whip that was meant to inspire us, everyone kept complaining that they would lose their motivation if she kept talking like that.

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