Shoichi Aoki has been around the block, to say the least. However, even at nearly 70 years old, the popular photographer has an unceasing hunger to create, which eventually brought him together with Y-3.
I say finally because, while Aoki is a longtime fan of Y-3 co-founder Yohji Yamamoto’s work, he’s never actually worked with the legendary Japanese designer.
“In the 1980s, Yohji Yamamoto sent Japan into a fashion frenzy,” Aoki recalled to Highsnobiety. “I was part of that madness as a fan. I still remember it to this day as a magical period.
“Decades later, Y-3 is a brand that perfectly captures the magic of this moment – an evocative blend of fashion and sportswear. Especially this season, the look allows the wearer to experiment with their own personal style. In the context of the current fashion landscape, I really feel like Y-3 represents something new and progressive.”
Aoki is best known to international audiences for creating the candid images seen in now-legendary photo magazines such as VOICE and Fruitthe latter of which was compiled for a few Phaidon compilations in the early 2000s.
His photographs of mid-’90s Harajuku kids wearing explosively personal, dramatically styled ensembles continue to grip the minds of fashion-obsessed kids around the world as representations of a bygone pre-internet era where all that mattered was to go to the hangout in the craziest clothes you could find.
“There is an inherent dynamism to this collection and so we wanted to work with a rather ‘analogue’ photographer who could bring an effortless feel,” explained Y-3’s senior design director Stefano Pierre Beruschi.
“Y-3 is all about the contradictions found in dynamic juxtapositions and Shoichi’s approach was a natural counterpoint to the collection. His vision was the perfect way to capture the inherent oppositions within the garments, shoes and accessories, and their attitude and atmosphere in the perfect way.”
The new designs are worn by models posing all over Tokyo, straying from Aoki’s preferred street style hunting ground.
“I usually shoot in Harajuku, but this time it was exciting to shoot in the chaotic streets of Tokyo,” said Aoki. “We had a few interruptions that forced us to move around – but that’s the nature of shooting, and overcoming challenges is part of the fun. The location had a strong aura and the natural tension that it created with the Y-3 clothes was perfect.”
That tension in the photos reflects the physics that inspired Y-3’s Spring/Summer 2023 collection, which launches in-store and online on January 27.
“To bring this collection to life, we experimented with the contrast between high-speed velocity and its antithesis – reverse aerodynamics, resistance and deceleration,” said Pierre Beruschi.
“The look of speed is undeniably elegant and the direction of this collection is its disruption. We explored the polarities between these two identities and brought them together in harmony as an image on the body.”
That means fuzzy logos, flowing layers and reinterpretations of staple sportswear. Varsity jackets realized in bright colors collide with muted overcoats and coach jackets, anchored by billowing reinterpretations of the adidas Y-3 sweatpants.
The sneakers should be just as familiar to Y-3 fans, reviving classic adidas silhouettes with textural details from the Yohji Yamamoto archives.
In place of the more futuristic Y-3 shoes that informed the 20th anniversary Fall/Winter 2022 collection, there’s more emphasis on heritage; more Gazelles and less Qasas.
Aoki, the epitome of this old-school ethos, is the perfect person to capture the action.