Issey Miyake: The Visionary of Fashion

Issey Miyake thinks form before fashion, and concept before clothes. The father of Japanese fashion, as he is often referred to, never ceases to amaze with his ability to transform clothes into organic objects. Over the course of more than four decades, Miyake’s collections have been called monastic, aesthetic and completely unfathomable. This last description is probably the most factual considering that Miyake always questions rather than follows. Being a man who survived the Hiroshima atomic bomb attack at the age of seven, he bravely put the moment of mass-destruction out of his mind and became a graphic student at Tama Art University of Tokyo, moving to Paris in the 1960’s and working with Guy Laroche and Hubert de Givenchy. Miyake then moved to New York and worked with Geoffrey Beene. When he returned to Tokyo in 1970, Japan had undergone a sea change. Kimonos and Western shapes had interbred—it was the perfect moment to forge a new direction. He became an overnight sensation after constructing a rather scandalous show that portrayed a girl systematically stripping of her Miyake creations. Years before his Japanese contemporaries, such as Comme des Garçons, he showed his unconventional collection in Paris and took it by storm. The rest, they say, is history.

Miyake’s clothes never start from a sketch, but from a scratch— a piece of fabric, a notion of movement. His collections are unequivocally momentous celebrations of pliable human structure. The link between Issey Miyake and art is inextricable. All the collections— from Windcoat, a collection of outerwear to Pleats Please, a range of polyester pieces— contain aesthetic reference points. He skillfully merges traditional Japanese materials and techniques and the present-day technology in order to create something innovative, clothes that exude comfortable lifestyle. “Miyake’s unwavering approach to creation is the freedom to have ideas, unconstrained by any preexisting rules or framework, and to be able to make them realities through a tenacious process of research and experimentation. Miyake works in a manner that not only advances his own ideas but also cultivates skills in the people around him, constantly pushing both the tradition and the evolution of design.” Speaking of, long before the sustainability in fashion became a thing, Miyake anticipated the crucial changes in clothing production and the rising effects of consumerism. “We may have to go through a thinning process”, Miyake stated for The Guardian in 2016. “This is important. In Paris we call the people who make clothing couturiers— they develop new clothing items— but actually the work of designing is to make something that works in real life”, the designer continued. “The important thing is to make something. In reality it’s not important that a designer be known by name— you can remain anonymous. Even the status of a designer will undergo changes, I believe”. 

Constantly designing timeless, yet relevant pieces, Issey Miyake is the past, the present and the future of fashion. Genuinely devoted to tradition— the one with a contemporary twist— Miyake is a designer who shows consistency in his sustainability pledge, in his individualistic ideas, in his constant evolution and rebirth. For the purpose of this significant feature, last week I reviewed the perfect specimen of the fusion Miyake conveys— the fusion of the basic materials with innovative forms of production. LUCENT TWILL TOTE BAG made from a cross-hatched triangular-split panel in matte black belongs to BAO BAO family, and I found it in Issey Miyake Antwerpen store  where, aside from BAO BAO, one can find items from Homme Plissé and Pleats Please collections.   BAO BAO Issey Miyake is a unique bag collection with intriguing shapes and diverse materials. Since the design debuted in 2000, its flexible and geometrical functionality became a perennial favourite among many of Miyake’s devoted customers, including the late Zaha Hadid. Not even I could stay immune. Both simple and diverse, the BAO BAO line is the definition of avant-garde. Miyake’s passion for paper folding techniques is perhaps best seen in the manner in which triangular pieces create a unique three-dimensional bags. The triangles are placed on lined mesh fabric that move to create striking shapes and character. The BAO BAO collection is created out of polyvinyl, polyester and brass material, maintaining the sustainable factor while valuing “free thinking that is unconventional, thinking that takes into consideration the spirit of creation, curiosity and love as a universal expression”, and  focusing on both “the importance of imagination and the development of new technology in which to make clothing.” The collection’s versitiliness in color, shape and style allows limitless opportunities. Undoubtedly, this stands for all Issey Miyake designs.

Miyake questions the conventional shapes and long-established European tradition of haute couture, offering sustainable— yet, theatrical— quality of clothes and accessories that surpass the futuristic element. Despite the pure originality of his work, Miyake does not shock or stun. Instead, he invites one to use the imagination and become playful by providing endless amount of opportunities to combine his uncommon designs. Consumers become creators; hence, proving Miyake’s claim about the status of a designer, or lack thereof. Taking into consideration the delicate relationship between a body, clothing and space, he invented a new way of approaching garment construction. The enduring influence of Issey Miyake on fashion remains, whilst his distinct vision evokes timelessness. In an ever-changing industry such as fashion, that surely counts for something.

Note: All quoted references belong to Issey Miyake Inc., unless otherwise stated. Cover photo credit: Financial Times