• Kyodo, AFP-Jiji, Staff report

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Pioneering fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto, who was known for his work with David Bowie, has died of leukemia at age 76, his office announced Monday.

Earlier this year, Yamamoto announced he had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. He died last Tuesday. His office said a funeral was held with family and close relatives attending.

Yamamoto was known for creating bold avant-garde pieces that defied gender norms and featured brilliant colors and patterns.

The bold costumes designed in 1973 by Kansai Yamamoto for David Bowie's Aladdin Sane tour | THE DAVID BOWIE ARCHIVE
The bold costumes designed in 1973 by Kansai Yamamoto for David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane tour | THE DAVID BOWIE ARCHIVE

The Yokohama native debuted in London in 1971 as the first Japanese designer to organize a fashion show there. His collection in London brought him international recognition and a long-lasting friendship with some of the world’s most high-profile musicians, including Elton John, Stevie Wonder and the late English singer-songwriter David Bowie, whose alter-ego Ziggy Stardust wore Yamamoto’s bold and futuristic outfits for his 1972-73 Aladdin Insane tour.

Yamamoto also showed in the Tokyo, New York and Paris fashion weeks from 1974 to 1992, according to the website of his company, Kansai Yamamoto Inc.

Yamamoto’s designs often incorporated elements from Japanese culture, and he famously dressed Bowie in a cape covered in kanji.

“I found David’s aesthetic and interest in transcending gender boundaries shockingly beautiful,” he told website The Cut in 2018.

But his eye-catching designs, replete with saturated colors and vivid motifs, set him apart from many of Japan’s more minimalist fashion icons.

Kansai Yamamoto is interviewed in Tokyo in May 2017. | KYODO
Kansai Yamamoto is interviewed in Tokyo in May 2017. | KYODO

As an event producer, Yamamoto oversaw the Kansai Super Show Hello! Russia in Moscow’s Red Square in 1993 and produced an event for the opening of the 2005 World Expo in Nagakute, Aichi Prefecture, among others.

“He left this world peacefully, surrounded by loved ones,” his daughter and actress Mirai Yamamoto said on Instagram.

“In my eyes, my father was not only the electric and energetic soul that the world knew him as but someone who was also thoughtful, kind-hearted, and affectionate,” she said.

“As he fought his illness, he remained always positive, never lost his passion towards creation, and was strongly determined to recover and come back with fully-charged energy to see you again,” his company said in a statement. “‘Human energy is limitless’ was his motto he would never let go, and he bravely kept challenging no matter hard the situation.”

His office said a public farewell will be held in the future after close discussion with his family and taking the coronavirus situation into account.

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