Portrait of a Wearist: Sayoko Yamaguchi

image via Media Cache

image via Media Cache

Considering herself a “wearist” rather than a model, Sayoko was not simply a hanger to display the clothing, but an element of the artistic process in representing the clothing. She had respect for the craft that exceeded dressing well. Sayoko applied her love for the art of fashion to other platforms of expression. She advanced her career into the theater and was then featured in film. Sayoko also put her dressmaking background to use as a costume designer in some projects. She continued to create art and support the art of others as a patroness and muse through the rest of her life.

image via Media Cache

image via Media Cache

by Marquila Herrera

Her name may not be as recognizable in America as Twiggy or Linda Evangelista, but Sayoko Yamaguchi was a major figure in the fashion scene for decades. Sayoko’s career as a model boomed in the 1970s, when she was seen on runways around the world despite her heritage. Sayoko embodied the image of the Japanese woman; a mysterious Eastern beauty. Her long dark hair, almond shaped eyes, and general aura were distinctly Asian features. This was remarkable for that time when the aesthetic was Caucasian, often with blonde hair and blue eyes. Beyond modeling, Sayoko moved on to become more than just the world’s first Asian supermodel. She became an artist in her own right.

image via Douban.com

image via Douban.com

Sayoko Yamaguchi’s sudden death in 2007 sent ripples through the fashion community. A legend was gone, but her mark remained in her absence. Sayoko considered feeling, style, and movement to be the most important aspects of modeling. Others have followed in this attitude, whether they knew it or not, and have formed their own art as a result. In the spring of 2015, an exhibition was created in Sayoko’s honor. While it showcased her career, the exhibition gave special attention to Sayoko’s enigmatic spirit that made her more than a pretty image; she was a wearist.