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Issey Miyake: Fusing fashion & technology to create harmonic garments

Born on 22nd April 1938 in Hiroshima, Issey Miyake had the horror of living through the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings. As a Japanese designer, Miyake was revolutionary in his fusion of technology and fashion. He was recognized worldwide for making contemporary, industrial and innovative apparel designs, fragrances and exhibitions. Miyake opened the eyes of the fashion world as his designs were a fusion of science and fashion resulting in harmonic garments while using unconventional garments.

Issey Miyake moved to Tokyo to study where he was a student of the Tama Art University majoring in Graphic Design. This is where his fusion of science and fashion was born, incorporating the mathematics and technical skills of a graphic designer into his clothing. After graduating in 1964, Miyake moved to New York and then Paris to polish his skills and gain experience in the best cities for fashion. In Paris, he worked for designers like Guy Laroche and Hubert de Givenchy. Around 5 years later, Miyake returned to Tokyo where his studio was born, Miyake Design Studios. His studio excelled in producing high-end and extraordinary fashion for women. He quickly garnered attention throughout Japan due to the use of unconventional materials, such as pleats and developed innovative techniques to produce the garments.

Pleats Please
In the mid-1980s, Miyake began experimenting with fresh methods of stitching and a technique called pleating. With experimentation, Miyake began to discover new ways of pleating which enhanced movement and comfort for the people wearing his designs. In 1993, he created a collection that got the whole world’s attention, named ‘Pleats Please’. This line featured only pleated garments that were permanently pleated. This was aesthetically new at the time and was appealing to all consumers as it was practical and prioritised comfort. In the long run, Pleats Please became synonymous with the brand and Issey Miyake himself.

Another concept introduced by Issey Miyake, “A Piece of Clothing,” was introduced in 1999. A-POC was a technique in which every garment was made from a single piece of fabric with perforations and cuts that would allow the wearer to customise by cutting. This approach emphasises the relationship between the customer and their garment, inviting a unique opportunity for customisation. This would mean every customer with the same garment could create a different garment expanding the possibilities of clothing.

Rise to Fame: The Early Years
Issey Miyake’s first big break was when his work was featured in Bloomingdales across the Pacific and when he was featured in Vogue. He was celebrated so deeply that Bloomindales assigned him a mini-shop within the store.

The designer’s influence extended beyond the fashion world. He is celebrated for his innovations, his commitment to sustainability, and his experimentation of materials and techniques. His designs have been exhibited in museums all over the world and he has been awarded many prestigious honours for his contribution to fashion. Miyake always wanted to invent something easy to wear and sustainable, and thus his Pleats Please line. Aside from this, one of his collections incorporated porcelain and ceramic buttons.

Miyake also shared a relationship with the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs had a signature attire he wore during most of his presentations and that included a noir turtleneck created by the designer. 

Between 1994 and 1999, Miyake turned his attention to research and at that time, he handed over the mens and womenswear collection to Naomi Takizawa, his protégé and associate. In 2007, Takizawa had become experienced enough to start his label, funded and supported by the Miyake Group.

Retirement & Beyond
In 1997, Miyake announced his retirement from his brand. However, he remained involved in multiple design projects and continued to collaborate with artists and designers to explore new creative expression. Despite stepping back from his brand, Miyake’s legacy continues to inspire young creatives around the world, especially in Japan.

The designer, talented as he was, had also revolutionized the fragrance industry. His debut fragrance, L’eau d’Issey for women, with a light floral scent, was introduced in 1992. The bottle is designed by Miyake and influenced by a view of the Eiffel Tower and the moon from his apartment in Paris. This was followed by L’eau d’Issey Pour Hommes in 2004, L’eau Bleue d’issey Eau in 2006.

In 2022, Miyake, aged 84, died of cancer. Today, his designs – dubbed collector’s items – are preserved at institutions including London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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