Issey Miyake: innovator of poetic pleats

Feather-light yet indestructible, flexible casualwear, or architecturally dramatic for the evening, Issey Miyake’s «Pleats Please» could be verses – in fabric. They also lie at the heart of his labor: The space between the garment and the wearer, according to the designer, is the design. Born in Hiroshima in 1938, Miyake first presented a garment made from one single piece of cloth in 1974. Since then his work has developed around one essential question: From the toga to the sari and the kimono, how do you work with a two-fold fabric to dress a three-dimensional body? Speaking at the conference on Tuesday, Jun Kanai, a close Miyake collaborator, offered participants an insight into the designer’s world. Taking his cue from the body, Miyake makes clothes for all ages, silhouettes and social structures. Since the 1970s, he has been heavily involved in fabric manufacturing – instead of ordering materials from specialized houses, he and his team have developed their own. Meanwhile, he has taken inspiration from daily life, from a child’s spinning top to a sushi chef using a sharp knife to slice fish. Throughout his work, noted Kanai, the designer has created a bridge where East meets West – just one aspect of Miyake’s work which led to the publication of a seminal book on fashion in 1978, the first-ever book dedicated to a fashion designer. The pleats adventure has led Miyake toward finding new ways to offer garments elasticity; in the design studio, pattern-makers cut and shape the fabric before pleating it. And though the «Pleats Please» collections are based on quality polyester, the Miyake staff is currently developing natural fibres with which to work. In 2000, the designer launched the «A-POC» (A Piece of Cloth) experiment, a pioneering way of linking computerization with traditional knitting methods. While a number of Miyake pieces are scattered around the Benaki exhibition, the «Fete» tribute, which closes the show, acts as a unifying creative force, distilling the essence of the designer’s pleated vision. Through the continuous use of technology – ultrasonic waves in this case – Miyake and his team celebrate life through the creation of the most sophisticated and intricate pleated patterns so far.