In fashion and culture, there’s a shift in the guard. Gen-Z creators are advancing the conversation in ways that are both inspiring and bold. Youth quake is our latest project. It invites you discover how artists, musicians and actors are radically reimagining tomorrow.
True originals can be hard to find, but Aoi Yamada definitely qualifies. The 21-year old Tokyo-based “dancer, model, expresser” is immediately recognizable. Her movements are not only what make her unique, but her avant-garde performance looks that include anything from a leotard with Matsumoto Castle printed to hairstyles that look like a Japanese thatched roof to a hairstyle that looks almost like a Japanese roof. It’s hard to forget her sui generis quality. It’s possible that she has worked with Stella McCartney and modeled for Fred Perry. She also performed a solo dance at last summer’s closing ceremony of Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic Games. She wore a bejewelled headpiece and a jacket of thin green and brown fabric. When she spun, it looked like she was brushing through a car wash.
Yamada began dancing at the age of five. She tried out many different styles before realizing she was just doing it for fun. Yamada says, “I loved wearing my favorite clothes and dancing to my favorite music.” Her childhood love for fashion goes back to her childhood. She recalled in elementary school buying new Vogue issues and trying out photo shoots with her mother’s clothes. She says, “I took a photo of my mother’s clothes in the middle the rice field, in front of her house.” “The colors and combinations that I saw as a child, I feel that they are unconsciously affecting my present.” She attended a Tokyo dance school as a teenager and met her manager two years later. She began to perform on stage, in music videos and at Basel World. She still considers the Olympic performance her biggest break.
Yamada’s work resists categorization. After seeing photographs of Booth and Sayoko Yamaguchi, she decided to call her practice “expression” rather than “dance.” Butoh is a Japanese style dance that was first performed in. It involves dancers who have their heads covered with white powder. The focus is on slow, erratic movements, rather than jumps and kicks. Yamada dances to the sounds and flashing lights from a clicking camera in a recent Instagram reel. She is dressed in green pants, a turtleneck and pink gloves. She mimes walking back and forth, while posing for the camera. The performance is almost dizzyingly hypnotic because of the clothes. They are both dressed in leotards that would be appropriate for an ice-skater. They are also bald, possibly a nod towards Booth dancers. The video is both surreal and trippy, and demonstrates her performance style and trippy senses of self-expression. Yamada states that fashion allows her to “put my soul in a container called Aoi Yamada.”