Issey Miyake

Issey Miyake
Courtesy of Kyodo Photo Service

My first encounter with the work of Issey Miyake came in the mid-seventies when I took a break from modeling in London to meet an American designer friend who was visiting Paris. She suggested we try to crash two designer collections showing back-to-back in the same venue. One of them was Issey Miyake' I was amazed at the mobs waiting as if it were some rock concert, desperate to get in, yet I too was one of them. Fortunately my friend spotted an acquaintance, a French magazine editor who somehow wangled us in. Even then Miyake was a hot name in fashion.

It's hard to believe now, more than 20 years later, I would still be involved in fashion but this time from another side, as a writer. But even more amazing is the fact that in a world as fickle as fashion, Miyake, who has recently entered his sixties, is still a vital creative force, a pioneer of new ideas in materials and form.

After studying graphic design at Tama Art University in the sixties, Miyake left for Paris where he studied couture then spent four years as an apprentice, first to Guy Laroche and then Givenchy. He was in Paris during the student riots of 1968; it touched a nerve and made him realize how tradition can oppress. It was then he knew he had to do something on his own. He left for New York, did a short stint with Geoffrey Beene, then headed back to Tokyo in 1970 to establish Miyake Design Studio.

From the very beginning, fashion cognoscenti have been effuse in their praise of his talent. Diana Vreeland, the most influential person in fashion at that time, first noticed his work when he showed in New York in 1971. In Paris he has consistently been named among the top ten designers by the French trade papers. "Miyake is one of the greatest innovators in both shape and fabric," writes Martha Duffy in Time magazine's 1996 Golden Anniversary issue on Asia. Time also cited him this year as one of the hundred most influential Asians of the past century.

Themes reappear throughout his life work: East and West, the body, cloth, nature, movement, culture. Miyake published the superb picture book of his best work, "East Meets West" in 1977, and since then he has often collaborated with creative people in different areas of the arts, cementing his position as one of this country's premier designers.

Zita Ohe

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