Renegades Series – Issey Miyake

Fashion Industry Broadcast and Style Planet TV is proud to present its new 11-part, hour long Film docuseries “Renegades”. As a teaser before the 11 films are released, we are revealing a post on THE BROADCAST each week for the next 11 weeks. This week the story is on Issey Miyake.

Our Renegades refused to follow the laws of the ‘fashion rulebook’. The dreamers, the rebels, the auteurs, without whom popular culture would never have been quite as interesting. Even if you hold only the most casual interest in the world of fashion, it’s hard to deny the fascinating life stories of every one of our Renegades.

Featuring the lives and legends of:

  • Alexander McQueen
  • Yohji Yamamoto
  • Rei Kawakubo
  • Issey Miyake
  • Kenzo Takada
  • Malcolm McClaren
  • Vivienne Westwood
  • Jeremy Scott
  • Rick Owens
  • Hedi Slimane

We present to you: ISSEY MIYAKE

Issey Miyake. Photo Credit: How To Spend It

Issey Miyake is an anomaly in the world of design and of men. The Japanese fashion designer not only shifted social perceptions on clothing, he pioneered the technology that made this shift possible and did so without forgoing the heritage of the craft. A survivor, inventor, philosopher and anthropologist who seeks to question the nature of a universal public as it navigates the modern world whom more importantly would have us questioning it too.

Issey Miyake, originally named Miyake Kazumaru, was born on April 22, 1938 in Hiroshima, Japan. He rarely discusses his childhood and for good reason – his mother and family were killed when the first atomic bomb was dropped in Hiroshima when he was only a child. At the age of 10, he also developed a bone-marrow disease and walks with a limp to this day. Ever since this tragedy, Miyake has only ever looked forward preferring to think of things that can be created, not destroyed and that bring beauty and joy. Today, he is renowned for pioneering Japanese design and combining Eastern and Western elements in his craft.

Original sketch by Issey Miyake, 1965
As a student at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndical de la Couture Parisienne. Photo Credit: Issey Miyake Official Site

Miyake assembled his first collection named “The Poem of Material and Stone” (Nuno to ishi no uta) whilst studying graphic design at Tama Art University in Tokyo and graduated in 1964. In 1965, Miyake moved to Paris to study haute couture at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. His career began in 1966, working as an assistant designer at French designer house Guy Laroche and for a period with Hubert de Givenchy. During his tenancy in Paris he also witnessed the 1968 Paris riots, which sparked his interest in creating clothing for a universal public.

In 1969, Miyake left Paris for New York and worked as a designer for the meticulous American fashion designer Geoffrey Beene. Whilst in New York, Miyake also refined his ideas about clothing and the function of fashion. The following year he moved back to Japan to make his ideas concrete.

Dress Tattoo. Photo Credit: The Kyoto Costume Institute

In 1970, Miyake established the Issey Miyake Design Studio in Tokyo, followed shortly by his first collection. From the beginning, art and shared knowledge was an essential component of his design process. Miyake empowered his team to be more like collaborators becoming part of the creative process. One artist amongst his studio, Makiko Minagawa created a Japanese-Tattoo of rock icons Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin as a feature print in the debut line. The dress became an icon in and of itself and is now archived at the Kyoto Costume Institute.

Three years later he would debut in Paris and from therein, Miyake showcased collections there twice a year and rapidly became a designer whose shows fashionistas couldn’t afford to miss.

Since the very beginning, Miyake’s artistic process has centred on his trademark concept “one-piece cloth,” exploring the connection between the body, the cloth used to cover it and the space and room that is created between the two. It was a pioneering act in trade craft which involved cutting garments from a single tube of fabric. The idea was developed in conjunction with Dai Fujiwara, a textile engineer under the banner of the Miyake Studio. In the ‘70s, Miyake joined a number of collaborators to develop new fabrics and make innovative improvements to leading-edge synthetic technologies at the time. Miyake also visited ancient production regions to unearth traditional techniques such as dyeing and weaving that were on the brink of extinction. He brought these methods back to life incorporating traditional handcrafts with the newest technology to respond to current demands.

a ‘body’ made from rattan and bamboo using traditional techniques, 1981. Photo Credit: The Guardian

Miyake became an internationally recognised label in the ‘80s continuing his ingenuity into fabric manipulation and material development working in plastic, paper and wire. In 1982, Miyake was among one of the first fashion designers to be featured on the cover of Artforum magazine, clothing in an art context by Miyake’s own account “was unheard of”.

By the late ‘80s the designer started experimenting with new methods of pleating that would offer a person flexibility of movement as well as ease of care and production. This resulted in “garment pleating” – a pioneering new technique that involved cutting and sewing the garment first, and then sandwiched between layers of paper and fed into a heat press where they were pleated. The fabric’s ‘memory’ is what actually held the pleats together. Shortly after this revolution saw the birth of his “Pleats Please Issey Miyake” line in 1993. Taking inspiration from the Frankfurt Ballet, Miyake stunned the world with his heat-set polyester garments that challenged a new level of function, movement and design. The self-moulding pleated collection offered simplistic clothing that was easy to wear, maintain and travel in; accomplishing his goal inspired by the 1968 protests in Paris by creating universal clothing which suited both the times and needs of women globally.

Miyake, who was a keen sportsman has always had a fascination with functionality and utility which has bled through to his design process. In 1992, he applied his authority of movement to the official uniform he designed for the Lithuanian Olympic Team in Barcelona.

In the same year Miyake launched its famous perfume L’eau D’issey, which quickly became a commercial hit. The pyramid shaped bottle is a bastion for the house and was designed by Miyake himself, drawing inspiration from the Eiffel Tower when he was a Paris expatriate. In 1994 L’eau D’issey Pour Homme (for men) dropped into stores and since then the scents have evolved year on year, bringing in guest perfumers to collaborate on a series of limited-edition fragrances since 2007. In 2018 the Miyake brand has launched an edition to its line of stellar perfumes. L’eau d’Issey Pure Nectar de Parfume will mark the latest offering from the house which continues to produce the highly coveted fragrances with the Beaute Prestige group of Shiseido, whom incidentally has successful ties to a number of notable designer perfumes. The sensory element the fragrances add to Miyake’s design field plays a strong component in the longevity and success of the house.

Issey Miyake Fragrances. Photo Credit: Issey Miyake

In 1998, the Cartier Foundation dedicated an exhibition to Issey Miyake in Paris touting him as “the most fascinating designer of our time,”. Miyake assisted the exhibit entitling it “Making Things”, the simple act of sharing his process was considered a ground-breaking curatorial move. True to his form, the artist shared the light with his collaborators highlighting his work on “Pleats Please” with artists Yasumasa Moriumura, Tim Hawkinson, Nobuyoshi Araki and Cai Guo-Quiang. Following the event, Philippe Trétiack from Elle magazine stated,

‘Making Things’ exhibition. Photo Credit: Foundation Cartier

“He has never ceased to search, interrogate or scrutinize his materials and he has drawn various replies and signs in order to design what might be the clothing of the future. A tailor of the wind, a poet of delicacy, an architect of a feather-light armour for the next millennium, Miyake, year after year, is becoming the master and the guru of the most fluid modernity.”

Since 1999, Miyake has handed over the reins of his men’s and women’s wear collections respectively to his associate Naoki Takizawa, and later to Dai Fujiwara, so that he could concentrate on other projects, Yoshhiyuki Miyamme would come on board in 2011 to take over the women’s wear line. That being said, Miyake continues to oversee the overall direction of all design studio brands under the Miyake banner. Due to the fact that Miyake had long engaged his prodigies as equals in creation, the succession was a smooth one.

For Spring 1999, Miyake’s A-POC line explored further his earlier work with “one-piece cloth”. Following its release, the famed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama added her signature polka dots to the designs at an event held by The Cartier Foundation in 2000. In 2006, the collection became a permanent fixture at the Museum of Modern Art and as serendipity would have it, Miyake became the first Japanese designer to receive the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy for lifetime achievement, awarded by the Inamori Foundation. Miyake is notable for making things that have never been made before and turning ideas into realities. He has adopted this concept since the outset and will continue to create ever more-advanced designs in the future.

Issey Miyake 132.5 design process. Photo Credit: Pikby

The “Issey Miyake 132.5” line was no exception. The 2014 line was developed in the designers Reality Lab, a group he founded in 2007 to charge the way forward for sustainable design and raise the public conscience. The 132.5 release consisted of garments made entirely out of recycled materials, folded and creased with applied graphics from artist Mr. Mitani. In the same year the designer released an exhibition which incorporated his own IN-EI shadow- sculpture lamps which he developed with Italian based company Artemide utilising again, recycled materials to further his message. “Vivid Memories” was based on the research of professor and computer scientist Jun Mitani of the University in Tsukaba. Much like his clothing, Miyake explores the interconnection of technology, sustainability and design through his installations. Furthermore, his exhibit “The Fab Mind: Hints of the Future in a Shifting World” as it looked to resolve social issues. The exhibition held at Miyake’s own Tokyo museum 21_21 Design Sight, saw a collaboration between 24 other artists posed with the same question. Miyake not only contributes to the conversation but provides the social space in which artists and audiences can engage on important issues and spark the social discourse needed to create change.

Miyake’s own history with public spaces spans back to the early days of his career. In 2012 Miyake co-founded the Society for a Design Museum in Japan and before that, set in motion events that would lead to the creation of The Kyoto Costume Institute, which now act as guardians over some of Miyake’s own seminal work. In 1975 he championed an exhibition at the institute, celebrating Diana Vreeland’s ground-breaking innovations from the early 1900s, the exhibition “Inventive Clothes” was the founding exhibition for the KCI, which today stands as Japan’s foremost fashion institute. Much of his own success and development is attributed to the collaborations with which he has engaged, affording him the ability to cross between the art and design worlds and by his own hand bring them together.

Issey Miyake design photographed by Irving Penn. Photo Credit: Dazed

Of all his collaborations, it is his lifetime of work with photographer Irving Penn that has managed to define the image of Miyake for both the man and the world to see. Beginning in the late 80’s, Penn would photograph Miyake’s work with a freedom that afforded Miyake himself to see it in a new light. The American photographer and then Vogue collaborator, captured the natural sculptural qualities of Miyake’s work and turned them on its head, abstracting as they were, Penn took it even further and at times even turned them inside out, playing with the garments in a relaxed way that Miyake himself had not imagined. By his own account:

“I would send him my clothing in New York and he would photograph them as he saw them. Seeing my clothes through Penn-san’s eyes always inspired me beyond my wildest dreams and gave me courage to go further forward”.

But Miyake’s field of influence is more than insular. In fact, the runways of Spring Summer 17 where filled with technologies carved out by Miyake’s innovation of industry, with micro pleats cropping up in the collections of Proenza Schouler, Altuzarra and Boss. According to Vogue before Miyake, the only influence in the field was “the classic style of Mariano Fortuny”, whose techniques of hand pleating remain the secret of the Spanish designer until this day.

Miyake’s 46 years a designer was celebrated in Tokyo’s National Art Center. The “Miyake Issey Exhibition: The Work of Issey Miyake” was presented along with a publication from Tashcen chronicling the genius and the contribution of the then 77-year-old. Rather than contemplating his legacy, Miyake used the event to discuss his latest fascination into the culture of paper. Ever looking forward, ever dedicated to his research, making him ultimately ahead of his time.

One year on the designer was befitted with the rank of Commander of the Legion of Honor, France’s premier award. Not bad for a designer who moved to Paris all those years ago, only to move back home and return to France with a clear path for his future. Miyake’s vision continues to reign supreme, influencing his field of contemporaries. Andrew Bolton, curator of an exhibition in New York, Manus x Machina: Fashion in an age of Technology which featured Miyake’s Spring Sumer 1994 Flying-saucer dress, credits Miyake’s designs with a certain “aura”. Perhaps it is to do with Miyake’s evasion of being bought out by the industry. His ability to maintain independence has afforded him the freedom to forge the path for his and his team’s journey into the industrial and digital age.

For Resort ‘19 Yoshiyuki Miyamae continues to deal in the houses signature use of high-tech fabrics contrasted with themes of nature. Whilst the Spring Summer ’19 showcased included a new fabrication, a urethane mesh known playfully as Dough-Dough, which rooted in the tradition of the brand allows the wearer to bend and mould the garments at will. The collection came just before the November announcement of a new president to preside over the Issey Miyake brand. The internal promotion went to Takahiko Ise, a fashion veteran who has served 20 years with the label and headed up its production. Ise will be guided by former president Masakatsu Nagatani who will stay on as an adviser.

It is said the current internal shifts could mark a new direction for the house whilst still remaining true to its core concepts: functionality, comfort and technique. As for Miyake, now in his eightieth year, this renegade of fashion continues to surprise us.  In presenting his latest “Dough Dough” collection Miyake remarked “The history of mankind has been made by hands”. Certainly, this is true for Miyake.

Issey Miyake Spring/Summer 1999. Photo Credit: Heroine

Check back every Tuesday for the latest teaser for FIB and Style Planet TV’s newest docuseries, Renegades.

Written by: Charlie O’Brien
Edited by: Jess Bregenhoj