Issey Miyake, one of the Nihon’s most respected and well-known designers, refers to his designs not as clothing, or ready-to-wear ensembles, but rather art pieces.
And why not? Many of the designs from Miyake et al are stunningly beautiful, but not the kind of thing you’d wear to the cricket, or even to dinner in some cases. Issey Miyake thinks differently from the more orthodox designer. Hailing from Japan, most would expect him to create ‘art pieces’ with an oriental flavour. While he will do this – and still does – he also creates pieces that are far more westernised than most would expect.
Born in Hiroshima, Japan, in 1938, Issey Miyake was seven years old when the USA dropped an atomic bomb on his country. Sadly, his mother was badly burned by the bombing of Hiroshima and died four years later. But, in an ironic twist of fate, the American occupation of Japan that occured after the attack gave a young Issey a first-hand look at Western culture. Miyake had always wanted to be a fashion designer, and in 1959 he enrolled in a graphic arts course at Tokyo’s famous Tama Art University. Five years later – in early 1965 – he moved to Paris to fulfil his dream and started looking for work in the Big Smoke. He then worked for Guy Laroche in only his second year in France, which lasted from 1966, to 1968. In the year that he ditched Laroche, he was snapped up by none other than the Givenchy house of design.
Then in 1969 he moved to New York City to work for Geoffrey Beene and two years later, after earning a good deal of capital, he set up his first creative studio – the Miyake Design Studio, or MDS, in Tokyo. This wasn’t so much a place of design and production, but a more a laboratory of sorts, where Miyake started experimenting with various blends of fabric and synthetic textiles. Miyake’s first fashion show in Paris was a hit (1973) and by ’79, he had set up an arm of his design house in France.
Making use of natural fibres and other fabrics, painstakingly researched at the Miyake Design Studio in Tokyo, his designs became hugely successful, not just in high cultural circles, either. In the ’90s Issey Miyake is largely accepted for kicking off the pleat, which today comes and goes with fashion trends year-in and year-out. His development of the pleating theory revolved around first sewing garments, then finishing them, and finally the pleating. From here on in, Miyake’s designs would influence not just the world of fashion, but even sport. For instance in 1992, Miyake designed the pleated jackets for the Lithuanian team at the Barcelona Olympics. Today Issey Miyake’s designs can be purchased all around the world, particularly here in Australia. He has quite a following locally, and right around the world, and doesn’t look like slowing any time soon.