The Japanese designer famous for his pleated clothing style and cult fragrances, and whose name became a global synonym for avant-garde fashion in the 1980s, died on August 5 in Tokyo at the age of 84. The passing was announced today by the Miyake Design Studio.
The Japanese New Wave
Issey Miyake shakes up Parisian style with his highly wearable fashion-forward designs, saying he was determined to create clothes that “bring beauty and joy” after witnessing the horrors of Hiroshima. Alongside Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto, Miyake was part of a wave of young Japanese designers who marked the French capital from the mid-1970slike the big names in fashion Kenzo Takada and Hanae Mori.
Throughout his global career spanning more than half a century, he pioneered high-tech, comfortable clothing, bypassing the grandiosity of haute couture in favor of what he simply called “making things”. Among his inventions was the “Pleats Please” line, permanently pleated items that won’t crease, refreshing an old-school concept to exude fluidity and comfort.
The much-copied futuristic triangles of Miyake’s geometric “Bao Bao” bag complemented countless chic outfits, and he made more than 100 black turtlenecks for Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
Miyake also wowed runway audiences with his “A-POC (A Piece Of Cloth)” concept, using computer programming to cut entire garments without seams.
Born in Hiroshima in 1938, Miyake was only seven years old when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city in August 1945, wiping out everything he knew. He survived the explosion, which killed an estimated 140,000 people on impact and led to the end of World War II after the bombing of Nagasaki three days later.
Although the bombing left him limping his entire life, he rarely spoke about his trauma, once breaking his silence in a 2009 New York Times article calling for nuclear disarmament.
“When I close my eyes, I still see things no one should ever experience: a bright red light, the black cloud shortly after, people running in all directions desperately trying to escape,” he wrote. “I remember everything. Within three years, my mother died from radiation exposure.“
In the article, he urged Barack Obama to visit Hiroshima, a wish fulfilled in 2016 when the then US president made a historic trip to the city.
“I never chose to share my memories or thoughts of that day. I have tried, but without success, to put them behind me, preferring to think of things that can be created, not destroyed, and which bring beauty and joy,” wrote Miyake.
“Open to all”
A graduate of Tama Art University in Tokyo, Miyake moved to Paris in 1965, where he studied at the elite Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne.
As a Cub designer, he worked under Guy Laroche and Givenchy, but his outlook was also influenced by the massive student uprising of May 1968. Seeing the protests engulf the French capital made him realize “the world was moving beyond high fashion needs for the few and towards more universal simple items such as jeans and t-shirts,Miyake told CNN in 2016.
He founded the Miyake Design Studio in Tokyo in 1970 and soon after opened his first store in Paris.
In the 1980s, his career was in full swing as he experimented with materials ranging from plastic to metallic wire and even handmade Japanese paper.
Teamwork was key for Miyake, who preferred the anonymity of his research and development lab filled with textile scientists and engineers to the bright lights of the catwalk. “You always see things differently when you allow others to be part of a creative process,“, he told the New York Times.
He retired from designing his Paris collections at the turn of the century and has since given a string of talented young designers their big break. But he continued to oversee the brand, and his obsession with technology endured – with everything from fabrics to stitching explained in detail in each show’s notes.