Sayoko Yamaguchi 1950-2007

Japanese supermodel Sayoko Yamaguchi died from acute pneumonia on August 14 it was reported today.

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Sayoko YamaguchiIn the 1970s, at a time when light skinned occidentals ruled the runway, Yamaguchi used her very Asian looks to conquer the fashion world’s top catwalks.

Yokohama born Sayoko Yamaguchi graduated from Sugino Gakuen, a fashion design school in Tokyo, and originally had no intention of becoming a fashion model. When she did become a model, she often thought of quitting because she didn’t have a Western look.

One day, her mother cut her hair in the old style for young Japanese girls, a straight short bob with long straight bangs reaching close to the eyes. With her beautiful almond-shaped eyes, it made her look like a traditional Japanese doll. Armed with this new look she auditioned for Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Ironically, she had made up her mind that this would be her last audition. If she couldn’t get the job, she would quit modeling.

Yamaguchi cherished her bob and made it her trademark. Consequently, Westerners saw Yamaguchi as the dictionary definition of Oriental beauty.

Yamaguchi made her Paris debut in 1972 and regularly modeled for Japan’s top designers like Kenzo Takada, Issei Miyake and Kansai Yamamoto. Japanese cosmetics maker Shiseido used her in an ad campaign to promote make-up for Asian faces and to make Japanese women more comfortable with their own beauty.

Newsweek magazine named Yamaguchi as one of the top six models in the world in 1977. In 1984, she received a special prize at the Mainichi Fashion Awards.

In her later years, Yamaguchi performed on stage and in movies, and also designed stage costumes.

Yamaguchi said that the three most important elements of modeling were kimochi (feeling), katachi (style) and ugoki (movement). Unfortunately, her movement has now ceased, but her feeling and style will last forever.

Sayoko Yamaguchi

Kjeld Duits About the Author

Inspired by the stunningly creative street fashion that exploded on the streets of Tokyo and Osaka in the late 1990’s, photo-journalist Kjeld Duits launched JAPANESE STREETS in 2002. This makes JS one of the first fashion blogs on the net, and the very first to cover Japanese street fashion.

Recent articles by Kjeld Duits:

Comment (日本語もOK)


Aug 27, 2007 (5467 days ago)

Yes, very sad. And she was only 57 years old.

Kjeld Duits (author)
Aug 28, 2007 (5466 days ago)

Trail blazers last forever.

Marble Tiger
Aug 28, 2007 (5465 days ago)

True, Marble Tiger!

Kjeld Duits (author)
Aug 28, 2007 (5465 days ago)

She was amazing and a true hero.

Sep 3, 2007 (5460 days ago)

i wouldn’t think people can still die of pneumonia nowadays.. what a really sad thing to happen.And she was so young!

Jan 22, 2008 (5319 days ago)

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