Issey Miyake, a Japanese designer now in his 80s, was born in Hiroshima and survived the atomic bomb when he was just 7; a fate that his mother didn’t share. He was first inspired by design thanks to 2 bridges near the epicentre of that atomic bomb, and realised he wanted to be a part of that inspiration.
Decades later, Issey Miyake’s empire includes 133 stores in Japan, with 91 internationally, as well as 8 clothing lines and Issey Miyake fragrances. He follows an unwavering approach to design, with freedom and creativity. Miyake has also become known for pushing the traditions and evolution of design over the years, without being constrained by rules, frameworks or expectations.
Miyake’s first introduction to fashion
Issey Miyake was a student at the Faculty of Graphic Design at Tama Art University in Tokyo in the 60s, before leaving for Paris in 1965. He was already designing clothes by this point, and studied haute couture in Paris before working as an assistant for 2 fashion houses. He witnessed the 1968 Paris riots, which opened Miyake’s eyes to creating fashion for more than just haute couture women.
In 1969, Miyake moved to New York where he worked for a ready-to-wear brand. While there, he became curious about the future potential of Japan which was quickly gaining momentum, and he soon returned to Japan. In 1970, he established the Miyake Design Studio, which became a high-end producer of womenswear.
Establishing his place in the fashion industry
Issey Miyake quickly established his own trademark concept of ‘one piece of cloth’. His design process explores the fundamental relationship between the body and the cloth that covers it. His creativity begins by studying a single thread and creating his material. Through this method, Miyake developed many new fabrics through the 70s. He also revisited historic and traditional techniques like dyeing and weaving, bringing the methods back to life.
In 2016, an Issey Miyake exhibition opened at the National Art Centre in Tokyo, showcasing his work from the last half century. Miyake kept everything from the beginning in archives, seemingly knowing its importance within his own success story.
Miyake is now known for creating collections that are futuristic and industrial, with clothes that serve a purpose. With timeless and relevant designs, Miyake understood the idea of sustainability before it was a major theme. He recognises the need to consume less, with simple designs using single sheets of materials and fabric traditionally used for kimono linings.
At the opening of the exhibition, Miyake was presented with France’s Legion of Honour Commander cross, an honour that he shares with the late Karl Lagerfeld. He has continued to win countless awards over the years, and the Miyake Issey Foundation was certified in 2004 to promote and cultivate a design culture and inspire the next generation of young designers.