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Fashion

Fashion Files Collectors Edition: The Art Director Who Owns Over 200 Items From Yohji Yamamoto

In a spin-off of this fortnightly column, we go into the closets of some of Singapore's most avid collectors. Here, Jonathan Chia, Female team member and Yohji Yamamoto fanatic shares his favourite pieces.

Jonathan Chia is not an unfamiliar name to the Female family and Japanese design fiends here. For starters, the man’s our contributing art director. Secondly, he’s a true blue Nippon-phile whose daily wardrobe musings and OOTDs on his Instagram feed read like a curated Yohji Yamamoto archive catalogue.

Oh, and if you’re into music and get by on a diet of meme accounts, then Chia is one to follow: his photo captions riff on lyrics from musicians the likes of Finlay Quaye, Elton John and David Bowie to suit the background and setting he is in. Which explains why his nickname is Mr Sound and Vision.

Jonathan Chia, Female magazine’s contributing creative director and Yohji Yamamoto fanboy.

But we digress. Back to the topic of fashion — Chia estimates that his wardrobe is filled with about 200 pieces from the Japanese design guru who is known for his avant-garde, trend-averse tropes.

Not that he only dresses in the brand though; he also has a thing for designers like Raf Simons and Rei Kawakubo, but even those pale in comparison when it comes to Chia’s soft spot for Yamamoto’s M.O. of asymmetrical cuts, billowy silhouettes drapes, androgynous and play on black.

Chia tends to gravitate towards buying matching sets when it comes to his Yohji Yamamoto pieces.

“I first wore Yohji in the ’90s and immediately fell in love with it. Being a student then, I could only buy a few pieces here and there. It was in the last 10 years or so that I got more serious about collecting,” says Chia whose daily uniform usually comprises the brand’s roomy hakama pants and long shirts or coats.

He shares that his Yamamoto-wearing ways and monastic silhouettes do raise attention among regular Singaporeans (true story: someone actually approached him to ask if he was a monk). His reaction? Just walk on. That individualistic style brings us to a quote that Yamamoto himself once gave in an interview with Dazed magazine.

“How can you avoid becoming a fashion victim? It’s quite easy: don’t copy your friend. Don’t be one of a group. Be yourself. Stay a little bit monotone – walk on our side of the street, don’t walk the mainstream of fashion. You’ll be polluted by trends,” said the designer.

These hakama bottoms come from the Spring/Summer 2012 collection which remains his favourite season till today.

What is the brand’s appeal to you?

“I love how when I wear Yohji, I feel an ease, lightness and movement in his clothes.”

Just how big is your stash?

“I think I easily own 200 or more items which don’t just include clothes, but shoes, hats and bags too.”

This limited edition coat only numbers 10 in the world and Chia was complimented by the late photographer Bill Cunningham when he was dressed in it.

What makes collecting his designs relevant today?

“Pieces from his men’s collections are selling very well at the moment. I can go to the main shop in Aoyama in Tokyo and there are very few pieces left.”

The best place to get great Yohji Yamamoto items?

“My favourite place to shop for his designs is still the flagship Aoyama store in Tokyo. If you buy over a certain amount, you get a free tote bag. And they serve Yohji-branded mineral water there too.”

Street style blog OG The Sartorialist captured Chia on the streets of Paris wearing this jacket.

What is your favourite collection?

“Till today, his Spring/Summer 2012 show ranks as my favourite. It was the collection with so many variations of the hakama. I also think I own the most number of pieces from that collection.”

How do you decide what’s a good piece to collect?

“I buy based on what I like; I never consciously think of what makes a good collector’s piece. Though I have a thing for getting matching jackets and pants, or hakama and long flowy coats.”

Photography Zaphs Zhang