The design community reflects on the legacy of Issey Miyake
It’s an almost impossible feat to talk about the work of Issey Miyake without using the word architectural. The famed Japanese fashion designer, who died on August 5 at the age of 84, practically sculpted fabric, creating puffy origami-like silhouettes that embodied the experimental as much as they evoked ease.
Since debuting his eponymous collection in New York in 1971, Miyake’s designs, crumpled with his signature magic folds or crumpled like sheets of tissue paper, have become a uniform for creative minds everywhere, including – famously – Steve Jobs, who admitted to having ordered a hundred turtlenecks from the designer.
But Miyake had a particularly special place in the hearts and cabinets of designers and architects, his accordion-like, human-centered creations becoming as ubiquitous as Le Corbusier-style eyewear or head-to-toe black in offices. designs from around the world. And the love was mutual. One of Miyake’s first inspirations as a teenager in Hiroshima was a pair of sculptural handrails Isamu Noguchi created for two city bridges. The designer would then work with numerous architects on the design of his stores, even helping to launch the careers of budding starchitects such as David Chipperfield.
“He was a force, and a significant force,” says Frank Gehry, who partnered with architect Gordon Kipping to design the Miyake’s Flagship of TriBeCa in 2001. “His clothes were inspirational, and I think that had an impact on the architects because they showed a freedom.”
With that in mind, six members of the design community reflect on the fearless legacy Miyake leaves behind.
“Issey Miyake was a design visionary, and he always had big ideas behind his collections, exhibitions and design debates that he promoted through his 21_21 Design View. As a fashion designer, he revolutionized the way fabrics are made, linking traditional techniques and digital productions with environmental impact in mind. He invented new ways of dressing, creating more freedom in comfort, function and identity. When I wear her clothes, I feel confident and brave.
“Beyond fashion, he was very influential in industrial and interior design and architecture. He viewed a fashion “trend” as a force that can impact society to bring about change. He will be greatly missed.
“He and I have become very close friends. Over the years, he came to visit us. I made a little store for him in New York, which was like a sketch. It was really his way of working. We just sketched it out and built it like it was a model…there was no stepping back or anything. We just did.
“I met him long before [we did the New York store]; I think I’ve always known him. When I did the New York store, I did it with her people [and architect Gordon Kipping]. It just happened around 9/11, so Issey was there. And we were supposed to have dinner. When it happened, he holed up in the hotel. We never saw him because he had his personal experience with the bomb in Hiroshima and hurt his leg because of it.
“He was very architectural. His fashions were architectural. I know it inspired me. [Issey’s team] always asked me to come to the store if I needed new clothes. I liked the jackets and shirts. And I wear them sometimes. When I started at UCLA, I played in the gagaku orchestra. So I got involved with the imperial court musicians and studied all of that. So I really saw what he was trying to understand – I saw the origins of his ideas. I was always moved by the way he took [inspiration from] Gagaku costumes… he used filament material. I simply loved it. He was a force, and a major force. Her clothes were inspiring. And I think that had an impact on the architects because it showed a kind of freedom. Just a strength, the guy was. He was on my mind a lot. »
“I know him very intimately. I wear his clothes. I had been influenced by him as a creator and a human being. He had not only designed shapes but developed materials and technologies, just like me.
“I met Issey Miyake two or three times while living in Tokyo. There are very few people who have impressed me as much as him, both as a person and as a creative. I greatly admired for the consistency and conceptual appeal of his work. was and the fact that he commissioned photographer Irving Penn to shoot each of his collections shows a remarkable vision. To meet him was always to feel in presence of a modest and charming genius. The last time we met was at the opening of his retrospective at the Tokyo National Art Center and he wore the Legion of Honor, which had just been awarded to him by the French Ambassador. Looking tired but incredibly stylish, and when I assumed he had had enough of people pestering him, he called me to have a chat, brushing aside compliments on the display which was spectacularly beautiful, to talk about design for everyday life.”
“[Issey] was a fabulous friend and I would say we had a mutual admiration for each other. In Japan, during my first visit in 1971, he organized an exhibition of my work in Seibu. In Paris, he arranged an interview with Arnault, then owner of Dior, because he thought he could support my work! …He was generous to his friends. He had this wonderful understanding of his own culture and generously introduced me to traditional Japan… The amazing flowers he always sent me, I drew permanent memories in my sketchbooks and conceptualized them as one of my oldest and most treasured prints, field of lilies. When he received his honorary doctorate from the ARC, I hosted a dinner for him at my house with Suzy Menkes…His lasting impact [on the world of design] is its incredible use and experimentation with pleating. Take it to areas never before imagined – shiny, new… yet practical.”
Lauren Ashley Allen
“When I was a young architect in graduate school, I always felt that Miyake left space to allow for a designer’s uniform. He made clothes guided by the principle of design, in his own way. monozukuri or his way of doing things, rather than following a fashion. He was a pioneer and a visionary, an artist and a creative who changed our perspective. Timeless…When I wear her pieces, I feel transformed because her clothes have the versatility to be a go-to basic, but refuse to blend in.
“Art, interiors, graphics, fashion, architecture and design – we are all connected. As designers we make and create – curious to push the boundaries of great design… I love it his quote, “We yearn for the beautiful, the unknown and the mysterious. He was a designer’s designer and will live celebrating the legacy he created.”
Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
Anna Fixsen, Associate Digital Editor at ELLE DECOR, focuses on how to share the best of the design world through in-depth reporting and online storytelling. Prior to joining the team, she held positions at Architectural Digest, Metropolis and Architectural Record magazines. elledecor.com
Rachel Silva, Associate Digital Editor at ELLE DECOR, covers design, architecture, trends and all things haute couture. She has previously written for Time, The Wall Street Journal and Citywire.