Issey Miyake, the legendary Japanese fashion innovator, sadly passed away at the age of 84 on August 5th due to cancer. His funeral has already taken place, attended only by relatives, in accordance with his wishes.
Miyake was a prominent figure among a generation of young Japanese designers who gained international recognition in Paris during the mid-1970s. He was a pioneer in creating high-tech, comfortable clothing, deviating from the extravagance of haute couture in favor of his philosophy of simply «making things.»
In 1970, he established the Miyake Design Studio in Tokyo and subsequently opened his first boutique in Paris. Miyake’s motivation to create clothing that brought «beauty and joy» stemmed from the horrors he witnessed in Hiroshima during World War II.
Alongside fellow designers Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto, Miyake contributed to the emergence of Japanese fashion in Paris, following in the footsteps of fashion luminaries like Kenzo Takada and Hanae Mori.
Some of his notable innovations included the Pleats Please line, featuring permanently pleated items that resisted creasing, and the iconic geometric Bao Bao bag. He even created over 100 black turtlenecks for his friend Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple.
Miyake’s A-POC (A Piece Of Cloth) concept, which utilized computer programming to craft seamless garments, garnered acclaim on fashion runways. In 2006, he was awarded the prestigious Kyoto Prize and expressed his deep connection to the concept of a single piece of cloth as the basis for clothing, tracing it back to ancient cultures.
Born in Hiroshima in 1938, Miyake was a survivor of the atomic bomb dropped on the city in 1945. Despite enduring lifelong physical effects from the blast, he rarely discussed his trauma. In a 2009 New York Times article, he broke his silence to advocate for nuclear disarmament, recounting his harrowing memories of the bombing.
After graduating from Tama Art University in Tokyo, Miyake moved to Paris in 1965, where he studied at the renowned Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. His early career included stints under designers Guy Laroche and Givenchy, but the student-led uprising of May 1968 in Paris significantly influenced his perspective on fashion.
He recognized the evolving global shift away from haute couture towards universal, simple elements such as jeans and T-shirts. Miyake’s innovative spirit led him to experiment with various materials, from plastic to metal wire and traditional Japanese paper, during the 1980s.
Collaboration and teamwork were essential to Miyake’s creative process, and he maintained a research and development lab filled with textile scientists and engineers who contributed to his designs. He stepped back from designing his Paris collections in the early 2000s but continued to mentor young designers, providing them with opportunities to shine.
Issey Miyake’s legacy in the fashion world is deeply admired, especially in France, where he received the Legion of Honour from former French culture minister Jack Lang in 2016. Lang praised Miyake as a «man of deep humanity, open to everything» and commended his inventive use of new materials and textures that had never been seen before in the fashion industry.