December 5, 2023

The Japanese designer Issey Miyake has died of liver cancer at the age of 84, according to the Kyodo news agency. Known for his sculptural approach to design and for his innovation with fabrics, the creator, who passed away on August 5, had been retired since 1997 and focused on researching materials from his studio in Tokyo.

After studying Graphic Design in Tokyo and fashion at the Parisian Chambre Syndicale, Miyake (Hiroshima, 1938) worked under the orders of Guy Laroche and Hubert de Givenchy, learning the artisan techniques of Parisian haute couture. After a brief stint in New York, in 1970 he would open his studio in the Japanese capital. Inspired by Madeleine Vionnet’s bias cut dresses and by Brancusi’s sculpture, the designer sought from the beginning to create fashion capable of integrating and interacting with the body and movement. At the beginning of the seventies of the last century, he debuted at the Paris Fashion Week. His radical proposals, in which the fabric and its characteristics marked the rest of the garment’s attributes, earned him a solid fan base in Europe and the United States.

Issey Miyake, during his spring-summer collection show in Paris in October 1991.
Issey Miyake, during his spring-summer collection show in Paris in October 1991.PIERRE GUILLAUD (AFP)

Obsessed with seeking a visually simple yet technically innovative kind of uniform, Miyake experimented with garments in motion over the next few decades through the study of contemporary ballet. That was how he arrived, at the beginning of the nineties, to create pleats please, a successful line of pleated polyester basics that expand and contract with movement and require no special care; or the Bao Bao bag, capable of acquiring different shapes from different plastic triangles joined by a cloth.

In 1997, he decided to focus his efforts on textile research and would hand over the creative direction of his fashion lines to his right-hand man, Naoki Takizawa. It is during those years when he created A-POC (acronym for A Piece of Clothing), a revolutionary technique of making a single piece of fabric that takes shape from a loom linked to a computer. Meanwhile, he marketed through the Shiseido group L’Eau d’Issey, a light, water-inspired fragrance that remains a hit to this day. Fragrances were, in fact, responsible for Miyake becoming known to the general public, along with the black polyester sweaters that he made for his friend Steve Jobs, he sent more than a hundred to the creator of Apple, and that the tech mogul wore as the designer’s philosophy dictated, as a uniform to wear daily.

Detail of one of the garments that the designer presented at a fashion show in Paris in March 1995.
Detail of one of the garments that the designer presented at a fashion show in Paris in March 1995.Alexis DUCLOS (Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Curiously, the apparent simplicity of the proposals that the Japanese devised were combined with a way of communicating them close to a work of art. Miyake regularly collaborated with Austrian ceramics artist Lucie Rie making buttons and trimmings and worked for years alongside her admired Irving Penn, creating one of the most fruitful creative dialogues between fashion and photography of the late 20th century.

A protagonist of various retrospective exhibitions around the world, in 2010 he received the medal of the Order of Japanese Culture, one of the country’s highest distinctions. “I see this award as a way of supporting the people I work with. I am not only talking about designers, but also about weavers, seamstresses and all those involved in innovating and creating beautiful pieces despite the country’s economic difficulties”, she told the magazine at the time. Women’s wear Daily. Since 2020, Satoshi Kondo has been the artistic director of his fashion lines, which continue to be presented in Paris, most of the time through dancers.

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