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Issey Miyake

Japanese, born 1938

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Like the architect Le Corbusier and the painter Pablo Picasso, the fashion designer Issey Miyake has redefined the boundaries of his field, changing the shape and form and even the medium of clothing. Exploring new relationships between clothing and the body--even the space between the body and clothes--Miyake broadened the range of what clothes can do and be made from, using traditional Japanese craft materials like bamboo and rattan, for example, to make an open cagelike bustier or oil-soaked handmade paper for rainwear that billows like a cocoon, as well as industrial technologies to produce fabrics like polyurethane-coated polyester jersey that falls away from the body in deeply sculpted leatherlike pleats.

Born in Hiroshima, Miyake attended Tama Art University in Tokyo and then worked as a free-lance graphic designer until 1965, when he went to Paris to study fashion design, first at the school of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne and then with Guy Laroche (1966-67) and Hubert Givenchy (1968). In 1969 Miyake went to New York, where he worked with Geoffrey Beene, and then returned to Tokyo in 1970 to found his own design studio.

Educated in Western couture, Miyake as an independent clothing designer liberated himself from dressmaking traditions of any kind. "My challenge as a clothing designer has been to create something different," Miyake said later, "not traditionally Japanese nor purely Western fashion. I had to start from the initial concept of clothing as the body covering." 1

In 1973 Miyake presented his first collection in Paris and in 1975 the first of what would become a succession of museum exhibitions of his work ("Inventive Clothes," held at the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto). In 1978 he published the book East Meets West, a photographic retrospective of his work, and in 1979 his screen prints based on designs by such outside collaborating artists as Tandori Yokoo and Eiko Ishioka were exhibited at the Musée de l'Impression sur Etoffes in Mulhouse, France. During the early 1980s Miyake took his study of the relationship between the human body and the garment directly back to the body, even molding the human form in a plastic bustier designed for outerwear, and his garments of this period were presented in "Bodyworks," an exhibition shown in Tokyo, Los Angeles, San Francisco and London between 1983 and 1985.

While Miyake's fabrics of the 1970s were largely natural, the result of his work with the textile designer Makiko Minagawa, and often depended on traditional textile techniques such as indigo dyeing, ikat, and sashiko quiltings, from the mid-1980s he also pursued synthetic fabrics like polyester, which by the late 1980s were finished in a heat-set pleating machine. His machine-pleated clothing was exhibited at the Touko Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, in 1990 as "Issey Miyake Pleats Please." A commemorative exhibition celebrating two decades of his work, when Miyake was awarded the first Hiroshima Art Prize, was held at the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art in 1990. Miyake has received numerous other awards for his work, including the Mainichi fashion grand prize in 1984, 1989, and 1993, and the Asahi prize in 1991.

Kathyrn B. Hiesinger and Felice Fischer, Japanese Design: A Survey Since 1950. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1994, p. 218.

1. Issey Miyake, "A Personal Statement on Fashion Design," in Phillip Dennis Cate, ed., Perspectives on Japonisme: The Japanese Influence on America, papers presented at the conference held on May 13-14, 1988, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (New Brunswick, 1989), p.93.

References: Issey Miyake: East Meets West (Tokyo, 1978); Issey Miyake Bodyworks (Tokyo, 1983); Miyake Design Studio, Issey Miyake and Miyake Design Studio, 1970-1985 (Tokyo, 1985); Nicholas Callaway, ed., Issey Miyake: Photographs by Irving Penn (Boston, 1988); Tokyo, Touko Museum of Contemporary Art, Issey Miyake Pleats Please (Sept. 1 - 30, 1990); Hiroshima, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Issey Miyake: Ten Sen Men (1990).

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