Tokyo, August 9,2022 – Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake, whose global career spanned more than half a century, has died aged 84, said an employee at his office in Tokyo today.
“He died on the evening of Aug 5,” she said over the telephone, declining to be named.
Miyake’s funeral had already taken place, with “only relatives participating” in line with his wishes, and there were no plans for a public ceremony, she said.
Public broadcaster NHK and other Japanese media reported the news of his death, with the Kyodo news agency saying he had died of liver cancer.
Miyake was part of a wave of young Japanese designers who made their mark in Paris from the mid-1970s. He pioneered high-tech, comfortable clothing, side-stepping the grandiosity of haute couture in favour of what he called simply “making things”.
Born in Hiroshima in 1938, Miyake was just seven years old when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city in August 1945.
He survived the blast, which killed an estimated 140,000 people on impact and led to the end of World War II after the bombing of Nagasaki three days later.
“When I close my eyes, I still see things no one should ever experience,” he wrote, adding that within three years, his mother died of radiation exposure.
“I have tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to put them behind me, preferring to think of things that can be created, not destroyed, and that bring beauty and joy. I gravitated toward the field of clothing design, partly because it is a creative format that is modern and optimistic.”
He established the Miyake Design Studio in Tokyo in 1970, and soon afterwards opened his first Paris boutique.
By the 1980s, his career was in full swing as he experimented with materials from plastic to metal wire and even artisanal Japanese paper. It was during this time he developed a new way of pleating by wrapping fabrics between layers of paper and putting them into a heat press, with the garments holding their pleated shape.
Tested for their freedom of movement on dancers, this led to the development of his signature “Pleats, Please” line.
Eventually, he developed more than a dozen fashion lines, ranging from his main Issey Miyake brand for men and women, to bags, watches and fragrances, before essentially retiring in 1997 to devote himself to research.
In 2016, when asked what he thought were the challenges facing future designers, he indicated to the UK’s “Guardian” that people were likely to be consuming less.
“We may have to go through a thinning process. This is important,” he was quoted as saying.
“In Paris, we call the people who make clothing ‘couturiers’ – they develop new clothing items – but actually the work of designing is to make something that works in real life.”
Miyake is perhaps especially revered in France, whose former culture minister Jack Lang came to Tokyo in 2016 to award him the Legion of Honour at a major retrospective.
Lang, who still wears Miyake pieces he bought many years ago, described the designer in October as a “man of a deep humanity, open to everything”.
“Issey Miyake is a researcher, a discoverer, a real inventor who conceived of and used new materials and textures the world had never seen,” he said.