Influential Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake dies aged 84

Written by Hilary Clarke, CNN

Contributors Junko OguraIrene NasserOscar Holland

Issey Miyake, the Japanese fashion designer whose timeless pleats made him an industry favourite, has died aged 84. He died of cancer on August 5, his office confirmed to CNN on Tuesday.

A funeral service has already been held with his family and close friends, his office said, adding that a memorial service will not be held, in accordance with the creator’s wishes.

Miyake rose to international prominence in the 1980s with avant-garde designs that those who could afford his luxury pieces immediately considered collector’s items. Today, his creations are held in institutions such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

He also found a lifelong client in Steve Jobs, who wore his black turtlenecks almost exclusively from the 1980s.

Issey Miyake photographed in Tokyo in 2015. Credit: Masahiro Sugimoto/The Yomiuri/Reuters

Miyake was born in the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1938. The bomb that was dropped on the city in 1945 left him with a pronounced limp that would follow him into adulthood, and his mother died three years old. later from radiation exposure.

Determined not to be labeled as the designer who escaped the atomic bomb, he did not mention his traumatic childhood until 2009, when he wrote about the experience in an op-ed advocating nuclear disarmament, published in the New York Times.

Miyake studied graphic design at the Tama Art University in Tokyo before moving to Paris in 1965. There he enrolled in the famous fashion and couture school École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne.

A model walks the runway for Issey Miyake during Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2018.

A model walks the runway for Issey Miyake during Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2018. Credit: Richard Bord/WireImage/Getty Images

While in Paris, Miyake worked for Guy Laroche and Hubert de Givenchy, two of the biggest names in haute couture, before moving to New York to assist Geoffrey Beene.

In 1970, he founded his own design studio in Tokyo. His early designs skilfully blended East and West, using Japanese embroidery techniques and tattoo designs.

It was during the 1980s that he began to develop a new fabric that could stretch vertically with hundreds of small pleats. He was inspired by the Delphos pleated silk dresses designed by Henriette Negrin and her husband Mariano Fortuny in the early 1900s.

Issey Miyake photographed during Paris Fashion Week in the early 1990s.

Issey Miyake photographed during Paris Fashion Week in the early 1990s. Credit: PL Gould/Images/Getty Images

Miyake took his idea one step further, blending traditional and newly developed techniques to create permanently pleated garments that were both fashion-forward and comfortable, architectural and natural.

He never stopped innovating. In 2007, Miyake launched his Reality Lab to explore sustainable and eco-friendly materials.

In addition to his clothes, Miyake was also known for his line of perfumes. The first, L’Eau d’Issey, was launched in 1992 and became an international bestseller.

Related video: Behind the scenes at the Issey Miyake show during Paris Fashion Week

Miyake has received several awards for his work as a fashion designer and as an artist. In 2005, the Japan Arts Association awarded him a Praemium Imperiale for outstanding achievement in the arts. A year later, he became the first fashion designer to receive the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy for his lifetime achievement.

In 2016, the French government awarded Miyake the prestigious Legion of Honor, and the National Art Center in Tokyo held the most comprehensive exhibition of Miyake’s career.

Until the end, Miyake remained faithful to the tailoring craft he had learned in his youth.

“Technology is valuable in a world of dwindling resources in terms of reducing waste and facilitating mass production,” he told CNN in 2016, “but we can never lose sight of the power of the touch of human hands”.

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