Issey Miyake, the Japanese designer, who along with Rei Kawakubo, Junya Watanabe, and Yohji Yamamoto, put Japan on the fashion map, passed away at age 84 in Tokyo after suffering from hepatocellular carcinoma — a type of cancer that affects the liver. When the news of his death broke, my colleague, who swears by the fact that she has nothing to do with fashion, asked me if he is the man behind the perfume, Pleats, Please, which she says is the most refreshing fragrance in the most visually appealing bottle. That was the power of Issey Miyake. He was everywhere without being anywhere, even when there was no social media, whose powers designers cannot stop yielding today.
Perhaps you’re reading this and wondering how Issey Miyake, who showed his presentations in Paris, designed his garments in Japan, and never even dressed any celebrity that you’re used to witnessing on the red carpet, affects your fashion. But look closely, and you’ll realise that some of his most famous works, the kinds that forever changed the way people dressed, sit quietly in your wardrobe without you even realising.
The accordion pleats that have become a mainstay in the creations of every brand — from luxury labels that belt out couture like Christian Dior and Alberta Ferretti to high-street ones like Uniqlo and Zara — were first developed by Issey Miyake in the ’80s when the designer saw his textile designer casually fold a polyester scarf that left a crease. Over the period, he developed a heat-treating system to permanently crimp featherweight fabrics that would never lose their shape despite machine washing. If you think the pre-pleated fabric has never been spotted in the Indian fashion space, think again. Designers like Payal Khandwala and Gaurav Gupta have gone on to use the accordion pleated fabric in their creations to elevate the ubiquitous sari to becoming seriously fashionable.
The intellectual slant brought on by Steve Jobs’ black mock turtleneck that the late founder of Apple famously made his uniform, and was seldom seen without, too, was designed by Issey Miyake in the ‘70s. It is a fashion fact lost on many despite that fact that many have since turned toward the turtleneck for borrowing Jobs’ cerebral appeal.
Zendaya’s metallic breast-plate outfit designed by Tom Ford and shown as a part of his spring/summer 2020 collection, may have made headlines on the red carpet, but the first time a bodice was ever shown on the runway was in Paris, in Issey Miyake’s 1980 autumn/winter show, when the designer sent a moulded cast as the last look of his runway presentation. Recently, Olivier Rousteing, creative director of the French luxury house, Balmain, showed multitudes of the casted bodice-inspired looks for the brand’s Fall/Winter 2022 collection and left a new mark on fashion.
Of course, when it comes to Issey Miyake, we can hardly have a conversation without mentioning the Boa Boa bag — the geometric panelled design boasting prisms within squares, a superior folding-inspired structure which ensured that the bag never creased. The cult bag was everywhere, whether they were inspired by the designer or made by him, no one knew.
So the next time you try on a pleated skirt, tuck a turtleneck that you yanked from its perfect hangar setting, or spritz some Pleats, Please out of the most visually appealing bottle, like my colleague rightfully said, do remember Issey Miyake. Maybe even how we collectively owe him a debt of gratitude.