Designer Spotlight: Issey Miyake

The late Issey Miyake was known for his technology-driven designs and his collection ‘’Pleats Please’’ which stole so many hearts as they were a crowd favourite.

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Miyake was born in 1938 in Hiroshima, Japan. He was a survivor of the atom bomb, but, not wanting to be defined by it, did not reveal this fact until 2009, when speaking out in support of nuclear disarmament. Miyake first began wanting to be a dancer but soon found a love of fashion after reading his sister's fashion magazines. He began his design path after graduating in 1965 from Tama Art University situated in Tokyo, where he majored in graphic design. Very soon after graduation he moved to Paris and enrolled in L'École de la Chambre Syndicate de la Couture Parisienne, a school which is famous for the tailoring and dressmaking. Once graduating from his Parisian school, he began working in 1966 behind the scenes for 4 years in ateliers operated by Guy Laroche Hubert de Givenchy, and Geoffrey Beene. In this environment he thrived, developed his skills, and decided to set up for himself. In 1970, after setting up his Tokyo studio, he began working. In 1973 he displayed his first independent collection in a group showing in Paris. This show signified the start of Issey Miyake's trademark style of layering and wrapping.

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Bloomingdales was one of the first department stores to create space to showcase Issey Miyake’s work, primarily showing t-shirts portraying Japanese tattoo designs. This feature was an "east meets west’’ look. His coats that were displayed showed traditional sashiko which is a Japanese embroidery technique which strengthen materials.

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1980 was the year Issey Miyake became an international name, after working with Japanese designers Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto. They presented a collection with Avant Garde creations beside Issey Miyake’s bright and bold creations at their Paris ready to wear collection. Issey Miyake earned himself the name ‘’King of Pleats’’ after showcasing his influence from origami and pleats. In 1980 Issey Miyake started to experiment with his pleating to make it better to wear and easier to care for, but most importantly easier to produce. To produce the pleats, the garment is cut and sewn, and then pleated between layers of paper to put into the heat press. This is due to the fabric's memory holding the pleats when removed from the paper, it's then ready to wear.

Steve Job's Black Turtleneck by Issey Miyake

Issey Miyake designed Sony's factory uniforms, but also created a bond with Steve Jobs which resulted in him designing his signature look, the black turtleneck.

In 1994 and 1999 Issey Miyake handed over his men and women’s collection design roll to his associates Naoki Takizawa, as Issey Miyake wanted to return to researching full time. After 20 years working as designer for the Miyake group, he opened his own brand with full support from the Miyake group. He was replaced with Dai Fujiwara as creative director of the Miyake Group until 2012. Yoshiyuki Miyamae took over women’s collections and Yusuke Takahashi was head designer of the men’s line.

Miyakewas a co-director of 21_21 Design Sight in 2012 which was Japan’s first design museum. A large covering of Miyake’s career since 2016 has also been displayed at the national art centre in Tokyo to celebrate his outstanding career.


Sadly, Issey Miyake passed away on August 5th, 2022, at 84 years of age from liver cancer. His legacy will forever live on as an artform and will continue to be honoured by the Miyake group.

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1 comment

  • So sad to hear about his passing. We lost a great visionary! 😔

    Cindy f

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