Today, Billie Eilish covers issue #29 of Highsnobiety. Exactly 10 issues ago, Yohji Yamamoto did too.The only thing separating Billie Eilish from Yohji Yamamoto is a couple syllables. So many intangible parallels exist between the singer and the Japanese designer that it seems almost inexplicable that the pair don’t already have a deep artist/muse relationship, Eilish’s other luxury obligations notwithstanding.
That’s why Eilish’s cover story for Highsnobiety Magazine, wherein she primarily wears Yamamoto’s clothes, feels like a long time coming. It’s both a manifestation of Eilish’s stylistic growth and a reflection of the powerful tethers that’ve kept her wardrobe grounded, indicative of the past and present on multiple levels (the magazine’s front cover is also a knowing homage to Eilish’s breakout EP).
For instance, since even before she became the world-famous Billie Eilish we all know, Eilish made baggy clothes her uniform mostly because it was comfortable but also because she loathed the idea of conforming to conventional dressing norms. The giant hoodies and slouchy shorts conveyed a sense of ease, of someone who knows what they like to wear. It’s this personal peace that inspired Eilish to flip the stylistic script in 2021 with blonde hair and dress far more feminine than the comparably masculine bagginess she’d famously embraced previously.
“People saw me as this 15-year-old, a kid, who wore this kind of stuff, looked this kind of way, acted this kind of way, said this kind of way. I felt like I couldn’t change,” she told Highsnobiety Magazine in October. “That’s why I went so far to the other side. I was trying to prove, ‘Hey, fuck you guys, I can do whatever I want.’
Like Eilish, Yohji Yamamoto shuns singularity.
Though his first few decades as a designer of moody, muted layers earned him the nickname The Poet of Black, for example, Yamamoto has spent the past several seasons reclaiming his stylistic narrative through explosive color, edgy deconstruction, and vivid prints atop his typically generous clothes that free the body from constricting cuts.
There’s multitudes here.
Again, like Eilish, casual admirers may know Yamamoto for his loose-fitting garments but the Japanese designer doesn’t dabble in shapelessness. There’s intent behind his exploration of different silhouettes, much like in how Eilish refuses to restrict her taste to a single brand, style, or silhouette.
“It’s not that you wear one thing, and that’s your new style,” she explained. “You fucking keep wearing a bunch of shit.”
“Please pay attention to the clothes.”
Eilish’s stylistic fluidity is partially indicative of her age. Gen Z doesn’t get dressed with a rulebook and prescriptive combinations of clothes. Likewise, Eilish disrupts conventional notions of how famous people get dressed. She flits between masculine and feminine codes because it feels right. And that’s all the reason the new generation of kids needs to eschew the outdated gender binary.
Yamamoto, meanwhile, is a 79-year-old fashion designer operating in an industry that barely resembles the one he scandalized with his 1981 Paris Fashion Week debut. And yet his appeal remains consistent, his clothes timeless.
To their fans, Eilish and Yamamoto have their own effervescent appeal. They read as authentic, pretense-free. How many similarities do they share? Let us count the ways.
Yamamoto’s clothes are all about the wearer. Wim Wenders once described wearing Yamamoto’s clothing as feeling “like a knight in his armor”: these clothes will protect you from the outside world. Similarly, Eilish’s music often focuses on an exploration of the internal realm.
Yamamoto’s form-obscuring wrap dresses and boxy suits, insular as they were, shocked the fashion establishment and, like his former partner Rei Kawakubo, he was relegated to the outskirts of the mainstream until stubborn determination broke down the barriers.
A cadre of obsessives kept Yamamoto in business while he divided Paris. They understood that there was only one Yamamoto, not unlike how Billie Eilish fans are aptly aware that there’s only one Billie Eilish.
Eilish’s fans breathlessly track her every movement, documenting Instagram Stories and recording snippets from her interviews. They feel a kinship to Eilish incomparable to the average celebrity-stan pairings, which comes from Eilish being so darn relatable — She’s a sneakerhead! She has a BeReal! She posts about her dog! —but also her distinct approach to dressing. There isn’t anyone else like Billie. Or Yamamoto, for that matter.
No norms need exist in their respective wardrobes. Womenswear doesn’t have to be form-fitting, feminine, dainty. Menswear doesn’t have to be firm, tough, hard-edged. Rules are made to be upended and rearranged to fit.
It’s the language of iconoclasts. A language spoken by Billie Eilish and Yohji Yamamoto.