Issei “Issey” Miyake, one of the most well-known and respected Japanese designers in the world, refers to his designs not as clothing or ready-to-wear ensembles, but rather art pieces—art pieces very westernized but with an oriental flavour. The Miyake Design Studio in Tokyo was more than a place of design or production, but a laboratory that experimented with various blends of fabric and synthetic textiles.
Issey Miyake is very consistent with his vision. He says, “I like to work in the spirit of the Kimono, between the body and the fabric there exists only an approximate contact.” He does not use the kimono itself as many Western designers do—to add a touch of exoticism. He simply borrows its attributes of ease, adaptability and respect for the fabric and the patterns and shapes in space with it can create when the body moves.
Miyake has gained worldwide recognition for expert constructive innovations in cloth that recall the formalistic art of French couture. Consistently showing an admiration for the creative draping techniques of early twentieth-century couturière Madeleine Vionnet, Evident as much in his contemporary work as in his early 1980s manifestations, Miyake’s derivations reflect a love for Western fashion historicism. This ensemble is particularly reminiscent of Paul Poiret’s harem and lampshade ensembles, which reflected both the elegance of French fashion and the regionally inspired folksiness of Léon Bakst’s designs for the Ballets Russes. Poiret’s harem pant became a symbol of the 1910s liberated fashionista, just as Miyake’s interpretation signified a new modernism for the late twentieth-century client.
Issey Miyake incorporated the imagery of African and Middle Eastern textile decoration into his tailored ensembles. This ensemble exhibits the raw color and craftsmanship of African mud cloth, yet displays the Turkish trousers, sash belt, and sleeveless bodice of Eastern European regional costume.
Ensemble, ca. 1983
Issey Miyake (Japanese, born 1938)
Dark gray cotton and wool with taupe and cream mud-cloth style resist patterns
Paul Poiret’s “harem pants”
Madeleine Vionnet’s draping
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