Issey Miyake Passes Away at 84 years old

The legendary designer popularized creative, innovative, and experiential clothing (and pleats!)

Legendary designer Issey Miyake passed away last Friday in Tokyo at age 84. His death, which was caused by liver cancer, was announced by the Miyake Design Studio and the Issey Miyake Group.

Miyake made a huge impact on both the fashion industry and his home country of Japan, helping to popularize the country’s culture, fashion, and energy on a global scale.

Born in Hiroshima on April 22, 1938, Miyake went on to study design at Tama Art University in Tokyo before founding the Miyake Design Studio in Tokyo in 1970, becoming one of the first Japanese designers to ever show in Paris.

Issey Miyake. Photo: Brigitte Lacombe.

Early in his career, Miyake worked with icons such as Guy Laroche, Hubert de Givenchy, and Geoffrey Beene, introducing Japanese styles to fashion’s most influential crowd. Through the ’70s and ’80s, Miyake made a name for himself as a designer who fused his design prowess with his eye for fashion to create groundbreaking, innovative pieces.

Issey Miyake coat, hat and pants in V124: Generation V. Photo: Nick Knight.

Perhaps the style innovation he is most known for, pleats, were born out of his belief that clothing items could – and should – be made out of one piece of fabric and should withstand daily wear-and-tear. That conviction led to his most widely-known brand, Pleats Please, which became increasingly popular among men, leading to the creation of Homme Plissé Issey Miyake.

Issey Miyake in V45: Spring preview. Photo: David Sims.

In the late ’90s, Miyake expanded his fashion empire with the creation of A-POC, or A Piece of Cloth, an experimental brand created to solve modern fashion problems. A-POC designs were uniquely fitted to individuals, a design practice Miyake loved, allowing wearers to customize the look and feel of the product themselves, thus ushering in a creative new approach to luxury fashion.

Miyake was also a titan in the fragrance industry, with his first-ever offering in the early ’90s, L’Eau d’Issey, garnering a cult following that still exists today. In popular culture, Miyake is also known for creating Steve Job’s beloved black turtleneck, a staple design from his ’80s collections.

Homme Plissé Issey Miyake for VMAN. Photo: Menelik Puryear.

Despite his experimental legacy, Miyake was never one to conform to trends. Instead, he became a pioneer in the realm of of creative, design-driven fashion, opening up the proverbial doors for other avant garde brands, like Iris van Herpen and Comme des Garçons. “Anything that’s ‘in fashion’ goes out of style too quickly. I don’t make fashion. I make clothes,” Miyake told Parisvoice in 1998 in one of his most widely-quoted interviews.

Issey Miyaki dress for V Magazine. Photo: Danny Kasirye.

While clearly impactful, Miyake’s work was also award-winning. In 2006, he received the Kyoto Prize, Japan’s highest private award for lifetime achievement. In 2010, former Japanese emperor Emperor Akihito bestowed Miyake with the prestigious Order of Culture on the designer at Tokyo’s Imperial Palace. Over the past several years, Miyake stepped back from his creative duties across his various brands, though his brand’s offerings never strayed far from Miyake’s transformative vision of the future of fashion.

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