Unapologetically flamboyant, he shaped the look of David Bowie’s alter ego and also worked with Elton John and Stevie Wonder.
July 27, 2020
Kansai Yamamoto, the unapologetically flamboyant fashion designer whose love of color, unfettered imagination and exploration of genderless dressing caught the eye of David Bowie and helped define the look of his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, died in a Tokyo hospital on July 21 . He was 76.
The cause was leukemia, a statement on his office websiteconfirmed.
Kansai, as Mr. Yamamoto was generally known, was not as well-known as some of his more high-profile Japanese fashion contemporaries, including Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons. But it was Kansai who led the way for a generation of Japanese design talents to make their mark on the Western industry.
In 1971, he was among the first Japanese designers to show in London — a full decade before Ms. Kawakubo and the other Mr. Yamamoto. His signature aesthetic of sculptural shapes, clashing textures and prints, and eye-popping color combinations attracted industry attention.
Kansai’s debut collection was splashed across the cover of Harpers & Queen magazine with the tagline “Explosion from Tokyo,” and his growing profile led to collaborations with the decade’s most important musician showmen, including Elton John and Stevie Wonder in addition to Mr. Bowie, with whom he formed a longstanding creative relationship.
“Color is like the oxygen we are both breathing in the same space,” Kansai once said of his work with Mr. Bowie, who died in 2016.