Born: Kazumaru Miyake in Hiroshima, Japan, 22 April 1938. Education: Studied at Tama Art University, Tokyo, 1959-63, and at École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, 1965. Career: Design assistant, Guy Laroche, 1966-68, and Givenchy, 1968-69; designer, Geoffrey Beene in New York, 1969-70; established Miyake Design Studio in Tokyo, 1970; theater designer, from 1980; first U.S. boutique opened, New York, 1988; director, Issey Miyake International, Issey Miyake and Associates, Issey Miyake Europe, Issey Miyake USA, and Issey Miyake On Limits; lines include Issey Sport, Plantation, Pleats Please (introduced, 1993), and A-POC (introduced, 1999); A-POC stores opened in Tokyo and Paris, 2000; new HQ and store in TriBeCa, 2001; fragrances include L'Eau d'Issey, 1992; L'Eau d'Issey pour Homme, 1995; Le Feu d'Issey, 1998. Exhibitions: Issey Miyake and Twelve Black Girls, Tokyo and Osaka, 1976; Issey Miyake in the Museum, Seibu Museum, Tokyo, 1977; A Piece of Cloth, Tokyo, 1977; Fly With Issey Miyake, Tokyo and Kyoto, 1977; East Meets West, International Design Conference, Colorado, 1979; Les Tissus Imprimés d'Issey Miyake, Musée de l'Impression sur Étoffes, Mulhouse, 1979; Intimate Architecture: Contemporary Clothing, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1982; Bodyworks, international touring exhibition, 1983; A New Wave in Fashion: Three Japanese Designers, Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona, 1983; Issey Miyake Bodyworks: Fashion Without Taboos, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1985; Á Un, Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, 1988; Issey Miyake Pleats Please, Touko Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, 1990; Ten Sen Men, Touko Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, 1990; Twist, Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum, 1992; Making Things, Paris, 1999. Awards: Japan Fashion Editors Club award, 1974; Mainichi Newspaper Fashion award, 1976, 1984; Pratt Institute Design Excellence award, New York, 1979; Council of Fashion Designers of America award, 1983; Fashion Oscar, Paris, 1985; Mainichi Fashion Grand Prix, 1989, 1993; Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres, France, 1989; Asahi prize, 1992; Honorary Doctorate, Royal College of Art, London, 1993; Hiroshima Art prize, 1991; Chevalier de l'Ordre National de la Legion d'Honneur, Paris, 1993; Tokyo Creation award, 1994; Shiju Housho from the Japanese Government, 1997. Address: 1-23 Ohyamacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151, Japan. Websites: www.isseymiyake.com , www.pleatsplease.com
East Meets West, edited by Kazuko Koide and Ikko Tanaka, Tokyo,1978.
Bodyworks, edited by Shozo Tsurumoto, Tokyo, 1983.
Issey Miyake and Miyake Design Studio 1970-1985, Tokyo, 1985.
Pleats Please, Tokyo, 1990.
Inspired Flower Arrangements, with Toshiro Kawase, Tokyo, 1990.
Madeleine Vionnet, with Betty Kirke, San Francisco, 1998.
Making Things, Paris, 1999.
Deslandres, Yvonne, Les Tissus Imprimés d'Issey Miyake [exhibition catalogue], Mulhouse, 1979.
Hayden Gallery, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Intimate Architecture: Contemporary Clothing Design [exhibition catalogue], Cambridge, 1982.
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Koren, Leonard, New Fashion Japan, Tokyo and New York, 1984.
Milbank, Caroline Rennolds, Couture: The Great Designers, NewYork, 1985.
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Calloway, Nicholas, ed., Issey Miyake: Photographs by Irving Penn, Boston, 1988.
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Howell, Georgina, Sultans of Style: Thirty Years of Fashion and Passion 1960-1990, London, 1990.
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Jouve, Marie-Andrée, Issey Miyake, New York, 1997.
Holborn, Mark, introduction, Irving Penn Regards the Work of Issey Miyake: Photographs 1975-1998, Boston, 1999.
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Architect Arata Isozaki began an essay in Issey Miyake's East Meets West with the question, "What are clothes?" The question, perhaps too fundamental and unnecessary for most designers, is the matrix of Issey Miyake's clothing. Possibly more than any other designer of the 20th or 21st centuries, Miyake inquired into the nature of apparel, investigating adornment and dress functions from all parts of the world and from all uses and in all forms, to speculate about clothing. Aroused to question fashion's viability in the social revolution he observed in Paris in 1968, Miyake sought a clothing of particular lifestyle utility, of renewed coalition with textile integrity, and of wholly reconsidered form. In exploring ideas emanating from the technology of cloth, Miyake created great geometric shaping and the most effortless play of drapery on the bias to accommodate body motion since his paragon Madeleine Vionnet.
Miyake's highly successful Windcoats wrap the wearer in an abundance of cloth but also generate marvelously transformative shapes when compressed or billowing and extended. In these efforts, Miyake created garments redolent of human history but largely unprecedented in the history of dress. As a visionary, he often seemed to abandon commercial ideas of dress for more extravagantly new and ideal experiments, such as a 1976 knit square with sleeves, which became a coat with matching bikini; or fall/winter 1989-90 pleated collection which was a radical cubist vision of the human body and of its movement. Miyake has also worked with traditional kimonos, and has even experimented with paper and other materials to find the right medium for apparel. Despite unusual and some thoroughly utopian ideals, Miyake appeals to a clientéle of forward thinkers and designers who wear his clothing with the same zeal and energy from which they were created.
Miyake gives his work interpretative issues and contexts that contribute to their meaning, acknowledging the garments as prolific signs. His two earliest books East Meets West (Tokyo, 1978) and Bodyworks (Tokyo, 1983), were both accompanied by museum exhibitions of his many creations. Miyake can be anthropologically basic; again and again, he returns to tattooing as a basic body adornment, rendered in clothing and tights and bodysuits. He relishes the juxtaposition between the most rustic and basic and the most advanced, almost to prove human history a circle rather a linear progression. No other designer—with the possible exception of the more laconic Geoffrey Beene, for whom Miyake worked briefly and with whom he maintains a mutual admiration—interprets his work as deliberately and thoughtfully as Miyake.
Such allusiveness and context would have little value were it not for the abiding principles of Miyake's work. He relies upon the body as unerringly as a dancer might. He demands a freedom of motion that reveals its genesis in 1968. If Miyake's concept of the body is the root of all of his thinking, it is a highly conceptual, reasoned body. His books have customarily shown friends and clients—young and old— wearing his clothing. They come from East and West; they do not possess a perfect anatomy or the streamlined physique of body sculptures, but they are in some way ideals to Miyake.
Miyake's works have placed him in the worlds of both clothing designer and artist. His designs explore space and natural forms but are grounded in the understanding that they are to be worn. They exist in one form, only to be transformed when a body gives the piece a third dimension. This transforming power is evident in the endless variations of his pleats collection, which first appeared in his 1989 and was expanded into the Pleats Please line in 1993. Garments were constructed first and then pleated, a reversal of the standard process. Huge garments made of lightweight polyester were fed into a pleating machine and the resulting clothing was easy to wash, quick to dry, and wrinkle-resistant. This practicality reflected Miyake's dedication to the universality of his designs and proved to be a great commercial success. He opened the first Pleats Please store in SoHo in 1998, and the line is one of his most widely recognized.
Miyake's continual questioning and exploration of his own work led to another revolutionary concept in clothing design—mass-produced clothes designed to be individualized by each wearer. In 1999 he introduced the A-POC line, an abbreviation for A Piece of Cloth. In this line, the wearer takes scissors to a section of a continuous knitted tube with cutting guides to fashion her own garment, varying hem, sleeve lengths, and the neckline. The first store dedicated to the A-POC line opened in Tokyo in 1999. The A-POC line is but one example of how Miyake's designs originate with the fabric. His fascination with textiles continues to be the springboard for his work; whether the textiles are natural or synthetic, handwoven or high tech, Miyake transforms fabric into clothing that brings its wearer the joy of beauty and movement.
updated by Janette Goff Dixon