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Miyake, Issey

fashion design award line

B. April 22, 1938

Birthplace: Hiroshima, Japan

Awards: Japan Fashion Editors Club Award, 1974
         Mainichi Newspaper Fashion Award, 1976, 1984
         Pratt Institute Design Excellence Award, 1979
         Council of Fashion Designers of America Award, 1983
         Neiman Marcus Award, 1984
         Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres, France, 1989
         Hiroshima Art Prize, 1991
         Honorary Doctorate, Royal College of Art, London, 1993
         Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur, Paris, 1993

Kazumaru “Issey” Miyake, who was born in Hiroshima, was seven on August 6, 1945, the day the world changed forever. He experienced firsthand the devastation of the atomic bomb; his mother suffered severe burns and only lived for four years after the attack. On the other hand, the American occupation of Japan introduced Miyake to Marilyn Monroe, Mickey Mouse, and the American dream.

In 1959 Miyake enrolled as a graphic arts student at Tama Art University in Tokyo. During the early 1960s, he worked as a freelance graphic designer. Miyake left Tokyo in 1965 to study fashion design in Paris at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, which led him to design positions at Guy Laroche (1966–1968), Givenchy (1968–1969), and Geoffrey Beene (1969–1970). Miyake returned to Tokyo in 1970 to open the Miyake Design Studio. Through his design studio, he began to research fabrics and design techniques, combining ancient Japanese techniques with modern textile technology. He began experimenting with geometric shape, body movement, and unisex clothing, and he questioned, “What is fashion?”

Miyake’s first collection “Second Skin,” was a line of sheer, stretch garments with an allover pattern inspired by tattoos. For the next several years, Miyake continued to experiment with shape, form, and fabric. In 1981 he launched the “Plantation” collection, a line of affordable, natural-fiber clothing. In the early 1990s, Miyake finally created what would become his signature look: pleats. Miyake developed a new multidirectional pleating process in which the finished garment, not the raw yardage, is pleated. “Pleats Please,” a line targeted to younger customers, was launched in 1994. The line included comfortable, functional, practical pieces which provided an alternative to jeans and khakis. “Pleats Please” also allowed Miyake to collaborate with other artists whom he invited to design individual pieces for the 1996 collection. Over the course of his career, Miyake has launched three perfumes: L’Eau d’Issey (1993), L’Eau d’Issey pour Homme (1995), and Le Feu d’Issey (1998); designed jackets for the Lithuanian Olympic team in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games; and designed clothing for theater and dance.

Miyake does not consider himself a fashion designer; he is an artist working in the medium of textiles. He does not believe in, or participate in, fashion trends. His clothing transcends seasons, is neither Eastern nor Western, and can be worn by woman of all ages and body types. Miyake combines the natural with the synthetic, the hand woven with the high tech, to create tactile sensations. He makes us question what “dress” represents, designing from a perspective of clothing as body covering not fashion statement. His work blurs the line between art and fashion and is frequently exhibited in fine art museums around the world.

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