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Issey Miyake, The King of Pleats

By Claude Russell

Recognized for his industrial, innovative, and contemporary design, Issey Miyake, is a huge and unforgettable name in the world of fashion. A survivor and a witness of the Hiroshima bombing, this Japanese-born designer studied in Tokyo at the Tama Art University and majored in graphic designing, a skill that he applied in his designs. His interest in fashion started by studying his sister’s magazines. After graduation, he enrolled in Chambre Syndicale de la couture Parisienne school in Paris. Issey Miyake started to work in New York and Paris in 1964 and later returned to Tokyo and established the Miyaki Design Studio - a high-end producer of women’s fashion where he developed the wrapped and layered look that became his trademark.

Miyake was inspired from a young age by the respected artist Isamu Noguchi, whose novelty and sense of fun inspired him. Fashion designer Madeleine Vionnet’s use of geometric calculation and her signature “a single piece of beautiful cloth” was also an inspiration. In the 1980s, he became internationally recognized along with two other Japanese designers - Rei Kwakubo and Yohji Yamamoto - for their Avant Garde looks in the Paris ready-to-wear collection. He became known as the “King of pleats” with his fresh idea and method of stitching technique known as “pleating”. He aimed to discover the pleats for increased flexibility in the movement for people who wore his outfits, as well as ease of care and production. His work was observed in a costume made for The Loss of Small Details created for Ballett Frankfurt.


Miyake had a good friendship with Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Inc., and was behind the billionaire’s signature attire, the infamous “noir turtlenecks”. Miyake made around 100 pieces of this style for Steve Jobs. After a meeting between the two, Jobs returned to Apple HQ with the idea of uniforms, the entire idea was booed by the employees but Miyake also designed a similar vest for employees at the request of Steve Jobs.


Issey Miyake was also known for his collection of colognes and perfumes. Launched in 1992 and becoming an international best seller, L’eau d’Issey is Miyake’s debut fragrance and comes in a light scent that is inspired by water. It popularized oceanic perfumes and after two years of its launch, Miyake debuted a men’s version and other fragrances.


Miyake was included as the co-directors of 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT, Japan’s first museum of design. Miyake also won an award in 2005 for his work “Praemium Imperiale” and in 2006 he was the first fashion designer who received the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy for his lifetime achievement. The prize included 50 million yen and a 20-karat-gold prize medal. In 2016, the most comprehensive exhibition of Miyake's career was displayed in the National Art Center in Tokyo. He also received the Order of Culture in 2010.

Miyake combined the elements of Western and Eastern fashion perfectly, and in an impactful manner, and left a fashion legacy that is to be followed for years to come.

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