Yamamoto became an influential fashion designer after making his Paris debut in 1981. His commercially successful main lines, Yohji Yamamoto (women/men) and Y's, are especially popular in Tokyo. These two lines are also available at his flagship stores in New York, Paris, and Antwerp, and at high-end department stores worldwide. Yohji Yamamoto Inc. reported in 2007 that the sales of Yamamoto's two main lines average above $100 million annually.
Yamamoto is known for an avant-garde spirit in his clothing, frequently creating designs far removed from current trends. His signature oversized silhouettes in black often feature drapery in varying textures.
Yamamoto's work has also become familiar to consumers through his collaborations with other fashion brands, including Adidas (Y-3), Hermès, Mikimoto and Mandarina Duck; and with artists of different genres, such as Sir Elton John, Placebo, Takeshi Kitano, Pina Bausch and Heiner Müller.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Yamamoto was involved a relationship with fellow Japanese avant-garde fashion designer Rei Kawakubo.