Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake, renowned for his innovative pleated garments and for producing 100 mock turtlenecks for Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, has died of liver cancer in a Tokyo hospital. He was 84 years old.
The Issey Miyake Group released a short statement about their work saying: Miyake’s dynamic spirit was driven by relentless curiosity and a desire to convey joy through design. He said that in accordance with Mr Miyakes’ wishes, there will be no funeral or memorial service.
Much like Andy Warhol, Miyake was interested in the overlap between art, design and fashion. Throughout his 52-year career, the designer has maintained an anti-trend stance, always referring to his designs as clothing rather than fashion.
I’m mostly interested in people and the human form, Miyake told the New York Times in 2014. Clothing is the closest thing to all humans.
Perhaps best known for designing the faux polyester and cotton turtlenecks indelibly linked to Steve Jobs, believed to have produced 100 at less than $200 each. Designed to alleviate decision fatigue, along with the Jobs Levis 501 and New Balance 991, tops became shorthand for the Silicon Valley uniform of the late 90s, based on the idea that busy minds are more important than choosing ties.
Born in Hiroshima in 1938, Miyake studied graphic design at Tama Art University in Tokyo. But stung by the crossover between disciplines, he pivoted to fashion and moved to Paris to apprentice with Guy Laroche and eventually work for Hubert de Givenchy when Audrey Hepburn wore his dresses.
After witnessing the student protests of 1968, Miyake became disenchanted with an industry designed to dress only the wealthy. It was this interest in fashion as art and function, democratic yet aesthetic, that led him to establish the Miyake Design Studio in 1970 and to present his first highly wearable collection in New York in 1971. One one of his first pieces was a jersey bodysuit. , hand painted using traditional Japanese tattoo techniques.
A passionate sportsman, function has become the keystone of Miyakes’ work. His most famous and affordable clothes, the Pleats Please line, was launched in 1993 as a rebuttal to the price and importability of high-end fashion.
Featuring flowy capes and sleeveless pants and tabards made from heat-treated polyester to create permanent creases, the garments never wrinkle, can be machine washed and rolled instead of folded. The line remains one of the earliest and best examples of genderless clothing and still fetches hundreds of pounds from resale sites.
It is Miyake’s cynicism about the fashion industry, especially the speed at which it produces, that has given its designs such longevity in reputation and design. In an interview with the Village Voice in 1983, Miyake described his opposition to the fashion cycle: I want my client to be able to wear a sweater I designed 10 years ago with pants from this year.
Mikyake saw technology as a solution to the problem of overproduction, with one such solution, the late ’90s One Piece of Cloth idea (later known as A-POC) pioneering the idea of making clothes from a single tube of fabric, reducing and waste and showing exactly what could be done with a knitting machine, a computer and the right craftsmanship.
Many of his creations can be found in museums, including the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. In 2010 he received the Order of Culture in 2010 and in 2016 was decorated as Commander of the National Order of the Legion of Honor.
Reluctant to give interviews, Miyake limped badly because he survived the 1945 atomic bomb dropped on his hometown of Hiroshima at the age of seven. Three years later, his mother died from radiation exposure.
In a rare 2009 op-ed for The New York Times, Miyake recounted how that day and the subsequent death of his mother influenced his creativity. I tried, but failed, to put them behind me, preferring to think of things that can be created, not destroyed, and that bring beauty and joy. I got into the field of clothing design, in part because it’s a creative format that’s modern and upbeat.
I didn’t want to be labeled as the designer who survived the atomic bomb.
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