for a very long time the global fashion stage had been privileged grounds for caucasian models, with only a handful of black women breaking this rigid mold. as for asian models, they were almost completely absent. except for one trailblazer who was catapulted into the upper ranks of modeling: sayoko yamaguchi [1949-2007]. hailing from yokohama, yamaguchi graduated from a local fashion college before she started modeling, and in 1971 she was the very first japanese model – and one of the first asian faces for that matter – to be seen on the prestigious catwalks of paris fashion week and become nothing less than an overnight sensation. interestingly, yamaguchi never called herself as a model but a 'wearist' to imply that it takes a little more than being pretty to create a good shot.
the years that followed anchored her position as a sought-after top model, gracing not only the catwalks of all the global fashion capitals, but also becoming the face of many a prestigious campaign. currently on at tokyo's museum of contemporary art is an exhibition which explores her career as a top model and embodiment of asian beauty. the show is aptly entitled sayoko yamaguchi - the wearist, clothed in the future, it presents photos, scrapbooks, film clips, personal effects and a representation of her sense of style in various scenographies, the most notable one featuring several sayoko mannequins. mind you, these were made in her likeness and became popular in window displays across the planet during the 1970s and 1980s [on through jun 28]. location: 4-1-1 miyoshi [koto-ku].