Design icon Issey Miyake has passed away at the age of 84, after a battle with liver cancer. The announcement was officially made on August 9.
Rising to prominence in the 1980s for his use of his Japanese heritage aligned with cutting-edge technique, he worked with everything from paper to metal. Miyake built a global empire that encompassed clothing, accessories, watches and fragrance. In 1992 it was rumoured that a bottle of his iconic the L’Eau d’Issey sold every 14 seconds.
Although Miyake didn’t want to be known as ‘the designer who survived Hiroshima’, it remains a fact.
Miyake was just seven on August 6, 1945, when the US dropped the atomic bomb named Little Boy. He reportedly heard the explosion from his classroom. His mother would die just three years later from radiation poisoning.
Miyake only revealed his traumatic past in 2009, when he wrote about the experience in an op-ed in support of nuclear disarmament, published in the New York Times.
“When I close my eyes, I still see things no one should ever experience,” he said, continuing that he prefers to think of things “that can be created, not destroyed, and that bring beauty and joy.”
Initially, Miyake wanted to be a dancer or athlete – he would go on to design the official uniform for the newly independent Lithuanian team for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 – but changed his mind after reading his sister’s fashion magazines
Miyake studied in graphic design at Tokyo’s Tama University in the ’60s before heading to Paris in 1965 to enrol at the prestigious Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne to learn how to make clothes. He went on to work with the likes of Guy Laroche and Hubert de Givenchy. In 1970 he founded Miyake Design Studio.
After striking up a friendship with the Apple founder, Jobs refused to wear anything but a black polo neck from Issey Miyake from the 1980s onwards.
“I asked Issey to make me some of his black turtlenecks that I liked, and he made me 100 of them,” Jobs explained. “I have enough to last for the rest of my life.”
When we think of the ethos of Miyake, it’s that of an industrial style that has one eye firmly on the future.
Miyake developed a new way of pleating fabric by wrapping it between layers of paper in a heat press. This innovation led to the creation of his signature Pleats, Please line.
His 1999 A-POC, meanwhile, is the perfect fusion of computer tech and basic knitting. Working with his textile engineer, Dai Fujiwara, Miyake discovered a way to create clothing that is knitted from a single strand of thread without the need for additional sewing or cutting.
In 2005, the Japan Arts Association awarded him a Premium Imperiale for his outstanding achievement in the arts. A year later he became the first fashion designer to receive the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy for lifetime achievement. Meanwhile, in 2016, the French government awarded him the French Legion of Honor, an award previously given to Karl Lagerfeld.
Currently, Miyake’s designs are preserved at institutions including London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.