Obituary: Issey Miyake, fashion designer known for his futuristic, practical clothing


Issey Miyake, who has died aged 84, was less a couturier and more a designer of what happened to be clothing. Throughout his long career, Miyake explored the possibilities offered by both new and traditional materials, and later turned to computer technology to create clothing that is practical, comfortable, machine washable and wrinkle-resistant.

We also rejected a cardinal principle of the traditional fashion industry. “It’s important to make clothes for long-term use now, not just for one season,” he said. In 2010 he launched a line made from recycled materials.

None of this is to say that his creations were boring. In the mid-1990s he designed his famous Flying Saucer dress. This was followed by the minaret dress, made of pleated polyester and with a hooped skirt that allowed the garment to sway with the wearer’s movements. As one observer put it, “Essentially it’s a kinetic sculpture that happens to be a dress.”

For Miyake, art was just as important as technology. In 1982, a dress he created from rattan vines was featured on the cover of art forum Magazine. In 1988 he was the first fashion designer to have a solo exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. And in 1995 he produced jackets that opened up to resemble abstract paintings.

However, the overall goal remained “to make clothes that people wear in the real world”. Hence the use of polyester for garments that can be machine washed, packed in a suitcase and found just as flawlessly later.

Clothing, he believed, should not restrict the body’s movement, and he drew inspiration from the kimono. However, his quest for innovation, informed by traditional craftsmanship, led to the use of a variety of materials.

In the early 1990s, Miyake introduced his famous Pleats Please line, which featured his signature technique. Materials developed from a single thread, pleats were added after the clothing was sewn into shape.

Together with his colleague Dai Fujiwara, he developed A-POC (“A Piece of Cloth”) by using computer technology to create a single-thread knitted tube of fabric that can be transformed into a shirt, skirt or pants.

Miyake was born on April 22, 1938 in Hiroshima. He was seven years old when the US devastated the city with an atomic bomb. His mother, a teacher, suffered severe burns and died from exposure to radiation three years later.

In a 2009 article for The New York Times, Miyake wrote, “When I close my eyes, I still see things that no one should ever experience. I tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to bet [these memories] behind me and prefer to think of things that can be created and not destroyed and that bring beauty and joy. I was drawn to the field of apparel design, also because it is a creative format that is modern and upbeat.”

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In 1959 he went to the Tama Art University in Tokyo. He began designing clothes in his free time and moved to Paris in 1965, where he trained at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture. His first job was with Guy Laroche.
But while Miyake admired European high culture, he became increasingly disillusioned. After returning to Tokyo, he set himself up as a freelancer, designing costumes for Shiseido. In 1970 he founded the Miyake Design Studio. He quickly became a sensation, and by the 1980s his company was generating $50 million in sales worldwide.

He co-founded Japan’s first design museum, 21_21 Design Sight, with architect Tadao Ando, ​​and founded the Reality Lab dedicated to realizing his radical ideas.

At the beginning of his career he explained: “In Japanese we have three words: yofuku, which means western dress; Wafuku, meaning Japanese dress; and fuku, meaning clothes. Fuku can also mean luck, a kind of luck. People ask me what I do. I’m not saying Yofuku or Wafuku. I say I make you happy.”

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] Obituary: Issey Miyake, fashion designer known for his futuristic, practical clothing

Fry Electronics Team

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