Revolutionary Designer Issey Miyake Has Died Aged 84

Ingenious designer and Japanese fashion pioneer Issey Miyake has passed away, aged 84. 

It was announced this morning that Miyake had died from hepatocellular carcinoma, a form of primary liver cancer, on August 5. It has been reported a private funeral has already taken place for the designer in Tokyo. 

Known as the prince of pleats, Miyake built a global fashion empire on the back of innovative design which positioned him as one of fashion’s true revolutionaries. 

Born in Hiroshima in 1938, Miyake was only seven years old when the nuclear attack devastated the city. His mother died of radiation exposure within three years of the bomb. Originally hesitant to discuss the attack, Miyake penned a piece for the New York Times in 2009 in support of a campaign to get then US president, Barack Obama, to visit the city on the anniversary of the bombing.

Growing up, he originally had aspirations to become an athlete, but quickly became infatuated by fashion after engrossing himself in style magazines brought home by his sister.

Miyake would go on to study graphic design at Tokyo’s Tama University, before moving to Paris in the 1960s to work under both Guy Laroche and Hubert de Givenchy. 

It was after a short stint in New York that in 1970 Miyake decided to return to Tokyo. It was here he would found the Miyake Design Studio and begin to challenge the sheer notion of luxury design. From 1973, Miyake would move to show his collections in Paris, where his namesake brand still presents its collections today.

Miyake strived to create practical clothing that was avant-garde yet light, machine-washable and without restriction. It was towards the tail end of the 1980s when Miyake first developed his pleating, which involved wrapping fabrics within sheets of paper before being put in a heat press. The ground-breaking technique, which allows for garments to maintain their pleated appearance, evolved into its own subsidiary line, Pleats, Please, positioned beside a series of Issey Miyake concept categories.

Alongside the Issey Miyake main line, the brand has grown a Homme Plissé menswear division and a triangular-based Bao Bao accessories line with pattern cutting that allows its bags to continuously change shape. There are currently nine Issey Miyake concepts in total.

One of Miyake’s most notable technical achievements was his A-POC concept, created alongside Yoshiyuki Miyamae in 1997. Now evolved into its own high-concept brand category, A-POC – which means “A Piece Of Cloth” – began with an outfitting system dubbed Queen Textile which produced “self-tailored” clothing via a weaving machine that could spin continuous tubes of fabric fused with finished patterns. The wearer could then cut the roll to create their own ready-made garments – be it tops, skirts, dresses or socks. 

Throughout the 1980s and ‘90s, Miyake was quickly able to expand his empire to include watches and international best-selling perfumes. The designer is also known for designing Steve Jobs’ signature black turtleneck jumpers, which became his go-to uniform from the 1980s onward. 

Miyake would go on to retire from designing in 1997, handing over the reins to his trusted design studio. He dedicated the rest of his career to research, in 2007 launching the Reality Lab which explored durable, sustainable materials. 

Miyake will be remembered for his profound technical innovation and devotion to craft, rooted in the goal of making the everyday all that more simpler.

Portrait by Brigitte Lacombe.

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