Miyake, Issey

views updated Jun 08 2018


Japanese designer

Born: Kazumaru Miyake in Hiroshima, Japan, 22 April 1938. Education: Studied at Tama Art University, Tokyo, 1959-63, and at École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, 1965. Career: Design assistant, Guy Laroche, 1966-68, and Givenchy, 1968-69; designer, Geoffrey Beene in New York, 1969-70; established Miyake Design Studio in Tokyo, 1970; theater designer, from 1980; first U.S. boutique opened, New York, 1988; director, Issey Miyake International, Issey Miyake and Associates, Issey Miyake Europe, Issey Miyake USA, and Issey Miyake On Limits; lines include Issey Sport, Plantation, Pleats Please (introduced, 1993), and A-POC (introduced, 1999); A-POC stores opened in Tokyo and Paris, 2000; new HQ and store in TriBeCa, 2001; fragrances include L'Eau d'Issey, 1992; L'Eau d'Issey pour Homme, 1995; Le Feu d'Issey, 1998. Exhibitions: Issey Miyake and Twelve Black Girls, Tokyo and Osaka, 1976; Issey Miyake in the Museum, Seibu Museum, Tokyo, 1977; A Piece of Cloth, Tokyo, 1977; Fly With Issey Miyake, Tokyo and Kyoto, 1977; East Meets West, International Design Conference, Colorado, 1979; Les Tissus Imprimés d'Issey Miyake, Musée de l'Impression sur Étoffes, Mulhouse, 1979; Intimate Architecture: Contemporary Clothing, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1982; Bodyworks, international touring exhibition, 1983; A New Wave in Fashion: Three Japanese Designers, Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona, 1983; Issey Miyake Bodyworks: Fashion Without Taboos, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1985; Á Un, Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, 1988; Issey Miyake Pleats Please, Touko Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, 1990; Ten Sen Men, Touko Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, 1990; Twist, Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum, 1992; Making Things, Paris, 1999. Awards: Japan Fashion Editors Club award, 1974; Mainichi Newspaper Fashion award, 1976, 1984; Pratt Institute Design Excellence award, New York, 1979; Council of Fashion Designers of America award, 1983; Fashion Oscar, Paris, 1985; Mainichi Fashion Grand Prix, 1989, 1993; Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres, France, 1989; Asahi prize, 1992; Honorary Doctorate, Royal College of Art, London, 1993; Hiroshima Art prize, 1991; Chevalier de l'Ordre National de la Legion d'Honneur, Paris, 1993; Tokyo Creation award, 1994; Shiju Housho from the Japanese Government, 1997. Address: 1-23 Ohyamacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151, Japan. Websites: www.isseymiyake.com, www.pleatsplease.com




East Meets West, edited by Kazuko Koide and Ikko Tanaka, Tokyo,1978.

Bodyworks, edited by Shozo Tsurumoto, Tokyo, 1983.

Issey Miyake and Miyake Design Studio 1970-1985, Tokyo, 1985.

Pleats Please, Tokyo, 1990.

Inspired Flower Arrangements, with Toshiro Kawase, Tokyo, 1990.

Madeleine Vionnet, with Betty Kirke, San Francisco, 1998.

Making Things, Paris, 1999.



Deslandres, Yvonne, Les Tissus Imprimés d'Issey Miyake [exhibition catalogue], Mulhouse, 1979.

Hayden Gallery, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Intimate Architecture: Contemporary Clothing Design [exhibition catalogue], Cambridge, 1982.

Phoenix Art Museum, A New Wave in Fashion: Three Japanese Designers [exhibition catalogue], Phoenix, 1983.

Koren, Leonard, New Fashion Japan, Tokyo and New York, 1984.

Milbank, Caroline Rennolds, Couture: The Great Designers, NewYork, 1985.

Sparke, Penny, Japanese Design, London, 1987.

Calloway, Nicholas, ed., Issey Miyake: Photographs by Irving Penn, Boston, 1988.

Coleridge, Nicholas, The Fashion Conspiracy, London, 1988.

Howell, Georgina, Sultans of Style: Thirty Years of Fashion and Passion 1960-1990, London, 1990.

Miyake Design Studio, eds., Ten Sen Men, Tokyo, 1990.

Miyake Design Studio, eds., Issey Miyake by Irving Penn 1991-1992, Tokyo, 1992.

Miyake Design Studio, eds., Issey Miyake by Irving Penn 1993-1995, Tokyo, 1995.

Hiesinger, Kathryn B., and Felice Fischer, Japanese Design: A Survey Since 1950, New York, 1995.

Jouve, Marie-Andrée, Issey Miyake, New York, 1997.

Holborn, Mark, introduction, Irving Penn Regards the Work of Issey Miyake: Photographs 1975-1998, Boston, 1999.

Watson, Linda, Vogue Twentieth Century Fashion: 100 Years of Style by Decade and Designer, London, 1999.


Lewis, J., "The Man Who Put Show in Fashion Shows," in the Far East Economic Review (Hong Kong), 22 January 1979.

Bancou, M., "Issey Miyake Revisited," in American Fabrics & Fashions (Columbia, SC), Spring 1979.

"Issey Miyake," in the New Yorker, 8 and 15 November 1982.

"Issey Miyake," in Art and Design (London), March 1985.

Popham, Peter, "The Emperor's New Clothes," in Blueprint (London), March 1985.

"Issey Miyake's Bodyworks, " in Domus (Milan), May 1985.

White, Lesley, "Miyake's Marvelous But Issey Art," in Cosmopolitan (London), August 1985.

"Issey Miyake: Dateless Fashion," in Art and Design (London),October 1986.

Angel, Sally, "Zen and the Art of Fashion," in Blueprint, October 1987.

Knafo, Robert, "Issey Miyake is Changing the Way Men View Clothes," in Connoisseur (New York), March 1988.

"Eye of the Artists: Issey Miyake," in Vogue, October 1988.

Brampton, Sally, "Modern Master," in Elle (London), June 1989.

Martin, Richard, "The Cubism of Issey Miyake," in Textile & Text (New York), 12/4, 1990.

Penn, Irving, and Ingrid Sischy, "Pleats Please," in Interview, September 1990.

Tilton, Mary, "Issey Miyake: Designer for the Millennium," inThreads (Newtown, CT), June/July 1991.

Gross, Michael, "Issey Does It," in New York, 22 July 1991.

Bucks, Suzy, "Clothes That Grow on You," in the Independent on Sunday (London), 3 July 1994.

Spindler, Amy M., "Art or Vanity? Fashion's Ambiguity," in the New York Times, 13 December 1994.

Schiro, Anne-Marie, "Photogenic, But Out of Focus," in the New York Times, 20 March 1995.

Menkes, Suzy, "Show, Not Clothes, Becomes the Message," in theInternational Herald Tribune, 20 March 1995.

Wood, Dana, "Miyake's Lust for Life," in WWD, 18 December 1996.

Edelson, Sharon, "Miyake Rides SoHo Wave," in WWD, 27 August 1997.

Simon, Joan, "Miyake Modern," in Art in America (New York), 2February 1999.

Dam, Julie, "Issey Miyake," in Time International, 23 August 1999.

Edelson, Sharon, "Miyake Moves Downtown: New Store, NewConcept," in WWD, 19 July 2000.


Architect Arata Isozaki began an essay in Issey Miyake's East Meets West with the question, "What are clothes?" The question, perhaps too fundamental and unnecessary for most designers, is the matrix of Issey Miyake's clothing. Possibly more than any other designer of the 20th or 21st centuries, Miyake inquired into the nature of apparel, investigating adornment and dress functions from all parts of the world and from all uses and in all forms, to speculate about clothing. Aroused to question fashion's viability in the social revolution he observed in Paris in 1968, Miyake sought a clothing of particular lifestyle utility, of renewed coalition with textile integrity, and of wholly reconsidered form. In exploring ideas emanating from the technology of cloth, Miyake created great geometric shaping and the most effortless play of drapery on the bias to accommodate body motion since his paragon Madeleine Vionnet.

Miyake's highly successful Windcoats wrap the wearer in an abundance of cloth but also generate marvelously transformative shapes when compressed or billowing and extended. In these efforts, Miyake created garments redolent of human history but largely unprecedented in the history of dress. As a visionary, he often seemed to abandon commercial ideas of dress for more extravagantly new and ideal experiments, such as a 1976 knit square with sleeves, which became a coat with matching bikini; or fall/winter 1989-90 pleated collection which was a radical cubist vision of the human body and of its movement. Miyake has also worked with traditional kimonos, and has even experimented with paper and other materials to find the right medium for apparel. Despite unusual and some thoroughly utopian ideals, Miyake appeals to a clientéle of forward thinkers and designers who wear his clothing with the same zeal and energy from which they were created.

Miyake gives his work interpretative issues and contexts that contribute to their meaning, acknowledging the garments as prolific signs. His two earliest books East Meets West (Tokyo, 1978) and Bodyworks (Tokyo, 1983), were both accompanied by museum exhibitions of his many creations. Miyake can be anthropologically basic; again and again, he returns to tattooing as a basic body adornment, rendered in clothing and tights and bodysuits. He relishes the juxtaposition between the most rustic and basic and the most advanced, almost to prove human history a circle rather a linear progression. No other designerwith the possible exception of the more laconic Geoffrey Beene, for whom Miyake worked briefly and with whom he maintains a mutual admirationinterprets his work as deliberately and thoughtfully as Miyake.

Such allusiveness and context would have little value were it not for the abiding principles of Miyake's work. He relies upon the body as unerringly as a dancer might. He demands a freedom of motion that reveals its genesis in 1968. If Miyake's concept of the body is the root of all of his thinking, it is a highly conceptual, reasoned body. His books have customarily shown friends and clientsyoung and old wearing his clothing. They come from East and West; they do not possess a perfect anatomy or the streamlined physique of body sculptures, but they are in some way ideals to Miyake.

Miyake's works have placed him in the worlds of both clothing designer and artist. His designs explore space and natural forms but are grounded in the understanding that they are to be worn. They exist in one form, only to be transformed when a body gives the piece a third dimension. This transforming power is evident in the endless variations of his pleats collection, which first appeared in his 1989 and was expanded into the Pleats Please line in 1993. Garments were constructed first and then pleated, a reversal of the standard process. Huge garments made of lightweight polyester were fed into a pleating machine and the resulting clothing was easy to wash, quick to dry, and wrinkle-resistant. This practicality reflected Miyake's dedication to the universality of his designs and proved to be a great commercial success. He opened the first Pleats Please store in SoHo in 1998, and the line is one of his most widely recognized.

Miyake's continual questioning and exploration of his own work led to another revolutionary concept in clothing designmass-produced clothes designed to be individualized by each wearer. In 1999 he introduced the A-POC line, an abbreviation for A Piece of Cloth. In this line, the wearer takes scissors to a section of a continuous knitted tube with cutting guides to fashion her own garment, varying hem, sleeve lengths, and the neckline. The first store dedicated to the A-POC line opened in Tokyo in 1999. The A-POC line is but one example of how Miyake's designs originate with the fabric. His fascination with textiles continues to be the springboard for his work; whether the textiles are natural or synthetic, handwoven or high tech, Miyake transforms fabric into clothing that brings its wearer the joy of beauty and movement.

Richard Martin;

updated by Janette Goff Dixon

Miyake, Issey

views updated May 29 2018

Issey Miyake

One of the world's most innovative fashion designers, Issey Miyake (born 1939) experimented with new fabrics and textile producing technology to create an artistic blend of Eastern and Western influences.

Miyake is considered the first Asian fashion designer to gain renown worldwide. Known for blending the flowing fabrics and textile designs of the East with modern technology and production methods of the West, he experimented with natural and synthetic fibers and advanced textile science. The winner of nearly every fashion award, he is known to dislike the title "fashion designer" and prefers to be considered an artist whose medium is fabric. Two of Miyake's most popular lines are the Pleats Please prints that are permanently pleated yet flexible, and A-POC (A Piece of Cloth), a single, ready-to-wear piece of clothing. The Issey Miyake label also appears on numerous non-clothing items, including perfume, hosiery, and home furnishings.

Interested in Art and Design

Miyake was born in 1938, in Hiroshima, Japan, and was seven years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on that city during World War II. His mother, a teacher, was badly burned by the bombing and died four years later of complications. In an illness unrelated to the bomb, Miyake suffered from a bone-marrow disease at age ten. Ironically, it was the American occupation in Japan that gave Miyake an introduction to western culture.

Miyake's interests turned to the artistic even as a child, and with dreams of being a dancer and an artist, he took an interest in the pictures of fashions in his sister's glamour magazines. Admiring the way clothes could drape the human body to make a statement, he decided instead to become a fashion designer, even though it was considered a woman's profession. When he entered university and obtained Western magazines, he was inspired by the fashion photographs of Richard Avendon, as well as the images of Hiro and Andy Warhol.

In 1959 Miyake entered the prestigious Tama Art University in Tokyo, majoring in graphic arts. During school he showed his designs for the first time in a theatrical event called, "A Poem in Cloth and Stone," and his showing reflected his view of fashion as art. Miyake graduated from Tama in 1964, and the next year he moved to Paris to learn the art of haute couture.

Studied Haute Couture in Paris

In Paris, Miyake studied at the Syndicat de la Couture, then scored an apprenticeship as assistant designer for Guy Laroche from 1966-68. When Hubert de Givenchy offered him a position in his house of design, Miyake took it and, at Givenchy's suggestion, stayed for at least a year so he could learn the trade. Miyake worked sketching hundreds of designs that were sent to clients all over the world, including the duchess of Windsor and Audrey Hepburn.

Miyake was in Paris during the student riots of 1968, and traveled to the Sorbonne and the Place de l"Odeon to hear their protests. He sympathized with the hippie movement and the social unrest resulting from rigid tradition. Already tired of the haute couture style, Miyake decided he wanted to make clothes for everyday people. He told writer Dana Thomas in Newsweek, "I became a fashion designer to make clothes for the people, not to be a top couturier in the French tradition."

Ready to branch out on his own, he first moved to New York City where he worked as an assistant designer for Geoffrey Beene, who proved to be his creative mentor. Miyake also attended classes at Columbia University and Hunter College. He reveled in New York culture, telling Ingrid Sischy in Interview, "I felt like I was arriving at some very cosmopolitan city of the future. . . . It was the height of the hippie era . . . that was a fascinating time."

Working with European and American designers had taught Miyake a way of viewing fashion that stood in contrast to that of his Japanese culture, which held no distinction between fabric and body shape. In contrast to the loose fitting kimono of Japan, the Western view placed an ideal human body shape at the center of ever-changing fashions around it. Miyake was determined to form his own avant-garde approach to design. He remained true to his vision which embraced a union of traditional artistic concepts with modern freedom, energy, and technology.

Opened Miyake Design Studio

In 1970 Miyake left New York to return to Tokyo where he founded the Miyake Design Studio. Noting the depressed economy in the United States at the time, he recalled to Sischy that in Japan, "There was the air of possibility. . . . I began to think, I should start something on my own. . . . I sensed something new happening on the street." His new studio became his sanctuary where he could explore new directions in the fashion world. An innovator in textile science, he developed new techniques for making clothes and experimented with different blends of fabric and textiles based on traditional Japanese designs. He brought some of his new pieces to Bloomingdale's, which gave him exposure by offering him a small section of the store for his displays.

Miyake's global career took off when, in 1971, he showed his first collection in Tokyo and then shortly thereafter in the new Japan House Gallery in New York. The true test of success was presenting a show in Paris, which he did for the first time in 1973. It was an instant hit. During his career, he would be consistently listed by French trade papers as one of the top 10 designers.

Throughout the 1970s, Miyake continued to experiment with a variety of Eastern design elements. He incorporated the Japanese themes of harmony, simplicity, and humility to produce innovative work. He created new concepts based on traditional Japanese processes, designs, and dress styles, such as the kimono and sashiko coat. He also found time in 1978 to publish a picture book, East Meets West, which collected his best designs. In 1979 he opened a design company in France, followed by one in the United States in 1982.

Fashion as Art

Miyake continued to work during the 1980s at his design studio in Tokyo, creating affordable cloths that were also practical. He experimented with natural and synthetic fibers, such as traditional Japanese oil-soaked paper, as well as nylon monofilament and molded silicone. He was the first to use ultrasuede and explored new weaving and dyeing techniques. Miyake also delved into other areas of artistic expression, such as presenting his "Bodyworks" exhibit at museums in Tokyo, San Francisco, and London. He also worked on design concepts with choreographer William Forsythe of the Frankfurt Ballet in 1988 and created pleated jackets for the Lithuanian team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

In 1992, Miyake entered the perfume market with the launch of L'Eau d'Issey. Critics praised the line of perfumes for its clean, fresh, minimal scents. The inspiration for Miyake's fragrances was Japanese culture's emphasis on pure water and bathing. The perfume bottle's conical shape and brushed-steel tip were based on the Eiffel Tower, which Miyake had admired in Paris. Miyake also released a line of body care products, lotions, and creams.

Miyake took a step back from his work in the early 1990s to backpack through Greece. Packing lightly, he found he could do well with only minimal items such as underwear and socks. This experience generated the thought that he should produce easy-to-care-for fabrics that people can wash and wear and travel with.

Launched Pleats Please

In 1993, fulfilling his wish and following five years of research, Miyake launched his flagship design concept: pleats. His permanently pleated clothes were meant to be functional, universal for the modern buyer, and accessible to a wide market. The pleats were made using Miyake's innovative fabric technology. Single pieces of 100-percent polyester fabric were cut and sewn two- to three-times larger than the finished product. The pieces were heat pressed between two sheets of paper, a process that simultaneously created a permanent pleat, in either a vertical, horizontal, or zig-zag pattern, and created texture and form. Offered in a variety of seasonal colors, the clothes were light, flexible, and easy to care for.

Around this time, Miyake brought in several colleagues to assume some of his responsibilities and thus allow the designer to free himself for more innovative research. Naoki Takizawa took over the design duties of the Miyake line of men's and women's collections. In 1995, designer Dai Fujiwara joined Miyake's studio to provide input on creative engineering of manufacturing processes. The addition of these capable new talents allowed Miyake to become an artistic director overseeing all the products that bore his name.

In 1998, Miyake participated in a unique exhibit, "Making Things," at the Foundation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain in Paris. The show presented a 30-year retrospective of Miyake's fashions as art and celebrated his collaborations with artists, dancers, and photographers, as well as his experimentations with textiles and technology.

Invented A-POC Clothing Line

Continuing to explore ways to create inexpensive clothing for everyday people, Miyake in 1999 developed a revolutionary process of manufacturing shirts and dresses from a single piece of cloth that required no sewing. A-POC, which stands for "A Piece of Cloth," was co-created by textile engineer Fujiwara, who used modern computers in conjunction with traditional technology. In the A-POC process, thread goes into the loom and is woven by a machine programmed by the computer. A continuous tube of fabric emerges with the design of a garment already printed on it and with the seams already sewn together. The clothing then only has to be cut along a faint outline on the fabric, which won't fray or unravel. Buyers can customize their garment by cutting the sleeves, skirts, and necklines to their desired length. Miyake said this customization option allows wearers to participate in the design and production of their own cloths. The A-POC process was also applied to fashion accessories, and even a beanbag chair and sofa.

Honored around the World

During his prolific career, Miyake has been honored by many in the design and fashion world. In 2001, the City of Toronto honored him as a world leader in a festival of creative genius, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London hosted an exhibit titled, "What Is Radical Fashion," which displayed the work of revolutionary and influential designers around the world, including Miyake. For Miyake's part, he told Julie Dam in Time Asia: "I would be very happy if it was said of me that I had provided some keys to the 21st century. All I can do is to keep experimenting, keep developing my thoughts further. Certain people think that the definition of design is the beauty or the useful, but in my own work, I want to integrate feelings, emotion. You have to put life into it."


Art in America, February, 1999.

Interview, November, 2001.

Newsweek, January 18, 1999; July 8, 2002.

Time Asia, August 23-30, 1999.

Wired, December, 2004.


"Japanese by Design," Kent State University Museum Web site,http://dept.kent.edu/museum/exhibit/japan/infomiyake.html (December 15, 2004).

Miyake, Issey

views updated May 29 2018


Issey Miyake was born in Hiroshima, in the southern part of Japan, in 1938. In 1965 he graduated from Tama Art University in Tokyo, where he majored in graphic design. Following graduation, he went to Paris just three months after Kenzo Takada, the first Japanese designer to became successful in France, arrived there. Miyake and Kenzo had known each other in Tokyo, and they studied together at a tailoring and dressmaking school, l'Ecole de la chambre syndicale de la couture. In 1966 Miyake worked as an apprentice under the French couturier Guy Laroche, and two years later he apprenticed at Givenchy.

He then went to New York to work with the American designer Geoffrey Beene before returning to Tokyo, where he founded the Miyake Design Studio in 1970. One of Miyake's New York friends took some of his design samples to Vogue magazine and a major department store, Bloomingdale's. Both Vogue and Bloomingdale's were enthusiastic about his work, and Bloomingdale's was so impressed that Miyake got a small section in the store. His first small collection in New York included T-shirts dyed with Japanese tattoo designs and sashiko-embroidered coats (Sashiko is a Japanese sewing technique that gives strength to the fabrics used in clothing designed for workers). In 1973, when French ready-to-wear was institutionalized for the first time as prêt-à-porter, Miyake was invited to Paris to join a group show with such other young designers as Sonia Rykiel and Thierry Mugler. He opened a boutique there two years later and continued to show his collection in Paris. Miyake later became an official member of the French prêt-à-porter organization.

Founded Japanese Avant-Garde

Miyake laid the foundation in Paris for avant-garde designers worldwide, the Japanese ones in particular. He was showing in Paris long before other Japanese designers, and his presence was further pronounced by the emergence of two influential, norm-breaking designers.

Rei Kawakubo, working under the label Comme des Garçons, and Yohji Yamamoto began to present their collections in Paris in 1981 along with the already-established Miyake, who is considered the founding father of the new fashion trend. These three effectively started a new school of Japanese avant-garde fashion, although it was never their intention to classify themselves as such. Kawakubo said in an interview with Olivier Séguret in Madame Air France, "We certainly have no desire to create a fashion threesome, but each of us has a strong urge to design new, individual clothes which are recognizably ours" (pp. 140–141). Similarly, Miyake is quoted in Dana Wood's article in Women's Wear Daily as follows: "In the Eighties, Japanese fashion designers brought a new type of creativity; they brought something Europe didn't have. There was a bit of a shock effect, but it probably helped the Europeans wake up to a new value" (p. 32).

Miyake was the first to redefine sartorial conventions. His clothing patterns were very different from the Western styles in that he restructured the conventional construction of a garment. As the Time magazine writer Jay Cocks observed:

"Issey," asks one of his friends, standing in the middle of a bustling hotel lobby, "how do I work this?" … "I made it like this," says the designer … He unbuttons a half-cape that spans the sleeves, and puts the loose ends around his friend's neck. (p. 46)

A student who worked as a dresser backstage at one of Miyake's show in the late 1980s recalled the intricate construction of his garment:

There was a garment that was totally out of shape and had four holes. You could hardly tell which holes are supposed to be for the arms to go in or the neck to go in. During the rehearsal, Issey's patternmakers would be going around the dressers making sure we knew which hole was for which part of the body. Models usually come running back from the stage to get changed to the next outfit, and it is our job to help them get dressed as quickly as possible with the right shoes, the right accessories and so on. It's a mad house at the back during the show. At that point, you have no time to think which hole goes where! Some dressers couldn't match the neck to the right hole. It was totally wrong. But who can tell?

In other words, it is up to the wearer to be creative and decide how to wear it. Miyake claims that simplicity is often the key to wearing his clothes, which are versatile enough to be worn in a variety of ways.

Western female clothes have historically been fitted to expose the contours of the body, but Miyake introduced large, loose-fitting garments, such as jackets with no traditional construction and a minimum of detail or buttons. His dresses often have a straight, simple shape, and his large coats with sweepingly oversized proportions can be worn by both men and women. He challenged not only the conventions of garment construction, but also the normative concept of fashion. All of this came at a time when women's clothes by most traditional Western designers were moving in the opposite direction, toward a tighter fit and greater formality. The avant-garde Japanese view of fashion was opposed to the conventional Western fashion. It was not Miyake's intention to reproduce Western fashion, as he pointed out in his speech at the Japan Society in San Francisco in 1984:

I realized that my very disadvantage, lack of western heritage, would also be my advantage. I was free of Western tradition or convention … The lack of western tradition was the very thing I needed to create contemporary and universal fashion.

Sculptor of Fabric

Miyake is best known for his original fabrics. He collaborates with his textile director, Makiko Minagawa, who interprets his abstract ideas. With Minagawa and the Japanese textile mills, he introduced his most commercially successful collection, Pleats Please, in 1993. Traditionally, pleats are permanently pressed before a garment is cut, but he did it the other way round. He cut and assembled a garment two-and-a-half to three times its proper size. Then he folded, ironed, and oversewed the material so that the straight lines remained in place. Finally the garment was placed in a press between two sheets of paper, from which it emerged with permanent pleats (Sato 1998, p. 23).

"I am neither a writer nor a theorist. For a person who creates things to utter too many words means to regulate himself, a frightening prospect."

Issey Miyake quoted in Issey Miyake Bodyworks 1983, p. 99.

"When I first began working in Japan, I had to confront the Japanese people's excessive worship for foreign goods and the fixed idea of what clothes ought to be. I wanted to change the rigid formula of clothing that the Japanese followed."

Issey Miyake quoted in Issey Miyake Bodyworks 1983, p.103.

As early as 1976 Miyake began his concept of APiece-of-Cloth (A-POC), or clothes made out of a single piece of cloth that entirely cover the body. He introduced the line, which evolved from his earlier concept, in 1999.

The A-POC clothes consist of a long tube of jersey from which individuals can cut without wasting any material. A large variety of different clothes can be made in this manner; the tubes are manufactured with an old knitting machine controlled by a computer and can be made in large quantities. His objective was to minimize waste by using all leftover material. These garments allow the buyer to size and cut out a small hat, gloves, socks, a skirt, or a dress. Depending on the way the dress is cut, it may appear in two or three pieces. In addition to Miyake's APOC project, new techniques of sewing garments, such as heat taping and cutting by ultrasound, were also featured in his Making Things exhibition at the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain in Paris in 1999.

Place in History

No history of fashion is complete without the mention of Issey Miyake, as he has made a major contribution to the world of fashion. Miyake retired from the Paris fashion scene in 1999, when Kenzo also decided to withdraw from his own brand. The Issey Miyake brand was taken over by Naoki Takizawa, who had been designing Miyake's Plantation Line since 1983 and Issey Miyake Men since 1993. Many of Miyake's former assistants, such as Yoshiki Hishinuma and Zucca (Akira Onozuka), now participate in the Paris Collection.

Every convention carries with it an aesthetic, according to which—what is conventional becomes the standard by which artistic beauty and effectiveness is judged. The conception of fashion is synonymous with the conception of beauty. Therefore, an attack on a convention becomes an attack on the aesthetic related to it. By breaking the Western convention of fashion, Miyake suggested the new style and new definition of aesthetics. It could have been taken as an offense not only against the Western aesthetic, but also against the existing arrangement of ranked statuses, a stratification system in fashion, or the hegemony of the French system.

Miyake's cutting-edge concept that there is beauty in the unfinished and the neglected has had a major influence on today's fashion. Miyake says, "I do not create a fashionable aesthetic … I create a style based on life" (Mendes and de la Haye 1999, p. 233). He is opposed to the words "haute couture," "mode," and "fashion," because they imply a quest for novelty; he stretched the boundaries of fashion, reshaped the symmetry of clothes, let wrapped garments respond to the body's shape and movement, and destroyed all previous definition of clothing and fashion. His concepts were undoubtedly original, especially when compared to the rules of fashion set by orthodox, legitimate Western designers such as Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, and Yves Saint Laurent. It was Miyake who set the stage for the Japanese look in the fashion establishment.

See alsoJapanese Fashion; Trendsetters .


Cocks, Jay. "A Change of Clothes: Designer Issey Miyake Shapes New Forms into Fashion for Tomorrow." Time, January 27, 1986, 46–52.

Holborn, Mark. Issey Miyake. Cologne, Germany: Taschen, 1995.

Koike, Kazuko, ed. Issey Miyake, East Meets West. Tokyo, Japan: 1978.

Mendes, Valerie, and Amy de la Haye. 20th Century Fashion. London, New York: Thames and Hudson, Inc., 1999.

Miyake, Issey. Speech delivered at Japan Today Conference in San Francisco, September, 1984.

——. Issey Miyake and Miyake Design Studio: 1970–1985. Tokyo, Japan: Oubunnsha, 1985.

Sato, Kazuko. "Clothes Beyond the Reach of Time." Issey Miyake: Making Things. Paris: Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain 1998, 18–62. An exhibition catalog.

Séguret, Olivier. "Les Japonais." Madame Air France no. 5 (1988): 140–141.

Tsurumoto, Shogo, ed. Issey Miyake Bodyworks. Tokyo, Japan: Shogakkan, 1983.

Wood, Dana. "Miyake's Lust for Life." Women's Wear Daily, December 18, 1996, p. 32.

Yuniya Kawamura