We awoke this morning to the news that Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake has died. He was 84. The Washington Post and New York Times reported that he passed away on August 5th in Tokyo as a result of cancer.
We were a fan of Miyake’s pioneering style and aesthetic vision. He is among a rarefied generation of ground-breaking Japanese fashion designers to emerge onto the global stage to much international acclaim. Among his peers were Rei Kawakubo (Commes de Garcons), Yohji Yamamoto (Y3), and Kenzo. They in turn paved the way for designers such as Junya Watanabe, Jun Takahashi and even an influential streetwear creator like Nigo (A Bathing Ape, Bapestar).
Many years ago while living in Japan, we had a couple of Miyake’s signature turtlenecks and shirts, which we wore down to the threads. The turtlenecks were a comfortable wear-with-almost-anything staple of our layered fall and winter wardrobe, perfect clothing items for crisp, winter evenings in Tokyo. We also used to wear his men’s cologne, liberally spraying its citrusy mist into the air around our body, our go-to daily scent for the better part of a decade.
Miyake is perhaps most famous for his innovated use and mastering of pleated clothing, especially for women. He even had a sub-brand called Pleats Please. His genius here was in his design philosophy and deep understanding of various textiles and materials, making clothing that was wrinkle-free. Taschen published a book about it co-authored by Miyake.
His aesthetic vision transcended clothing and he was involved with an array of projects, from the aforementioned book to collaborating with famed Japanese architect Tadao Ando on the establishment of a museum devoted to contemporary design.
The museum is called 21 21 Design Sight and occupies its own stand-alone building in a park in Roppongi, Tokyo. The multi-level building’s design itself was created by Miyake and Ando and based on Miyake’s folded “A-POC” (“A Piece of Cloth”) concept. The structure looks like a giant, sharply folded paper object, a piece of origami, the Japanese traditional craft wherein Miyake found inspiration.
We are lucky that our place in Tokyo is practically across the street from the park where the museum is. We make a point of visiting 21 21 Design Sight a couple of times of year or whenever we’re in Tokyo and there’s a new exhibition on view. It well worth a visit if even just to experience the fantastic, minimalist architecture of the museum.
Issey Miyake, rest in peace.