Issey Miyake (1938–2022)

Origami Fashion

Ulf Meyer
9. August 2022
Issey Miyake: Women - Brompton Road by Stanton Williams (Photo: Peter Cook, courtesy of Stanton Williams)

When the nuclear bomb was dropped over Hiroshima in 1945, seven-year-old Issey Miyake saw his hometown disappear in an instant. After studying graphic design in Tokyo, Miyake went on to become one of Japan’s most recognizable designers in the fashion world and beyond. He died on August 5 at the age of 84.  

Miyake was more interested in the design aspect rather than the fashion aspect of fashion design. He graduated from Tama Art University in 1964, the year Tokyo hosted the Olympic Games, and then went to Paris to work for fashion designers Guy Laroche and Hubert de Givenchy. Protesting students roamed the streets of the French capital at the time, though in 1969 Miyake moved to New York City. After a year studying and working there, he went back to Tokyo to start the eponymous Miyake Design Studio, presenting its first collection in 1971.

Tribeca Issey Miyake Store by Frank Gehry (Photo: John Hill)

Starting with colorful silk and lightweight polyester, his innovations were first largely in craft and fabric. The iconic concept of folding, which also strongly influenced contemporary architecture, came about in the 1980s. From one single piece of cloth (later also paper) complex shapes and geometries were made, loosely wrapping the body. 

For the Pleats Please collection, parts were cut and sewn and only then plisséd, creating durable rows of folds that stretched to match the size of the body. In the A-POC series (short for "a piece of cloth"), flat pieces made from soft recycled materials unfold like origami when pulled up and turned into dresses, pants, or skirts.

The same principle was used, starting in 2013, for the IN-EI collection of Origami-style lamps. Miyake’s architectural taste was revealed in the shops that Tokujin Yoshioka, Toshiko Mori, Emmanuelle Moureaux, and other architects from Japan and elsewhere designed for Miyake.

21_21 DESIGN SIGHT by Tadao Ando (Photo: Wiiii/Wikimedia Commons)

In 2007 Tadao Ando designed the famous 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT in Tokyo’s fashionable Roppongi district. It is part of the giant “Midtown” tower and shopping mall complex next door and is exclusively used for traveling exhibitions. Miyake was one of the three co-directors of the design museum. A striking feature of Ando's design is the large, seamlessly joined steel plates that make up the expressive triangular roofs of the two wings — clearly reminiscent of Miyake’s pleats.

21 21 DESIGN SIGHT by Tadao Ando (Photo: Wpcpey/Wikimedia Commons)

Related articles

Other articles in this category