When legendary Japanese designer Issey Miyake died on August 5, 2022, following a prolonged battle with liver cancer, the world lost a titan of fashion innovation, a man who guided technical brilliance with an artist’s hand.
The world, however, did not lose Issey Miyake, Inc., the sprawling company that Miyake founded in the early ’70s that remains overseer of his quietly massive fashion empire.
Miyake’s personal legacy is a testament to tenacity and ingenuity.
Miyake’s mainline collection was first presented in 1971 and moved to Paris two years later, where it’s shown to this day. Issey Miyake Men’s was also introduced in 1973 and shuttered in 2020.
But Miyake is best known for his pleat experiments in the ’80s, which debuted as part of the Issey Miyake Spring/Summer 1989 collection and were soon distributed as Pleats Please Issey Miyake in 1993.
As Miyake shook up conventional garment production processes, Japanese designers Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto were simultaneously upending fashion norms with loose-fitting, ragged-hemmed black clothing that deconstructed conventional beauty norms.
Though Miyake is often lumped in with Kawakubo and Yamamoto by virtue of a shared nationality, he escaped the cruel “Hiroshima chic” label lobbed at the other Japanese designers by jeering French critics, despite Miyake actually being born in Hiroshima.
Miyake’s use of color and sculptural shape stylistically placed him closer to fashion forebears like Coco Chanel rival Madeleine Vionnet and Hubert Givenchy, for whom Miyake briefly worked.
A better comparison between Miyake’s Japanese peers, if one must be made, would be Miyake, Kenzo Takada, and Kansai Yamamoto; Yamamoto and Miyake both created clothing for David Bowie at different points in the musician’s career.
Famously, Steve Jobs casually propositioned the Japanese designer to send one of Miyake’s black turtlenecks over to Jobs, as the Apple co-founder was a friend and fan.
Miyake immediately sent Jobs over 100 turtlenecks, which became part of Jobs’ daily uniform.
Jobs later asked Miyake to design Apple staff uniforms, which were roundly rejected by Jobs’ employees.
But that’s the gist of it: Miyake’s pleats and his celebrity work generally make up the majority of what most folks know about the designer. Oh, and his best-selling perfume line.
Which is totally fine, of course, but there’s much more to be said about the company that bears Miyake’s name.
Oh, sure, there’s more trivia about the man himself to be had — Miyake, who once aspired to be a dancer, loved the way that his pleated clothing worked with the human form, so his runway shows over the past three decades have usually incorporated some form of dance — but let’s just focus on Issey Miyake, Inc. for now.
The primary subsidiary of Miyake Design Studio, his first company, Issey Miyake, Inc. is a living testament to Miyake’s unshakeable impact upon the fashion industry.
It continues to oversee the 270 Miyake-owned stores across the globe, 136 of which are located across Japan alone, and directs the vast array of sub-labels founded during Miyake’s career.
Books have been written about Miyake’s imposing network of clothing brands but the need-to-know stuff is that there’s too much to know.
A few common points of confusion, to begin: Issey Miyake, the brand, hasn’t been overseen by Issey Miyake, the man, since 1999.
It was directed by Naoki Takizawa, Dai Fujiwara, and finally Yoshiyuki Miyamae — now a director of Issey Miyake, Inc. — until 2020, when young designer Satoshi Kondo took over.
Similarly, Pleats Please Issey Miyake is a separate venture from Homme Plissé Issey Miyake — the former is a refined womenswear label, the latter is an affordable and relatively accessible menswear label.
Note that despite his distance from the brand that carries his name, Miyake didn’t retire in 2000. He instead redirected focus to ever more experimental fashion undertakings.
Take 132 5. Issey Miyake, launched in 2010 after three years of development, as an example. It was devised by the Miyake-managed Reality Lab. team as a collection of garments shaped by intricately folds made possible through computer programming.
A-POC, the revolutionary textile experiment that Miyake began in 1998, seeks to make garments out of a single bolt of fabric, hence the name A Piece Of Cloth. A-POC evolved into ready-to-wear line A-POC ABLE Issey Miyake.
There’s bag line Bao Bao Issey Miyake, one-size-fits-all label me Issey Miyake, the aforementioned perfume line that launched in 1992 with L’Eau D’Issey, a watch collection, branded eyewear, and HaaT, Makiko Minagawa’s trailblazing exploration into eco-conscious design.
There’s too much to Issey Miyake, Inc. for any one person to know, as you can see.
One additional point worth making, though, is that Issey Miyake, Inc. also oversees A-Net, Inc., a management company for former Miyake brand Plantation and likeminded indie label ZUCCa.
A-Net also helped develop tac-tac, a terribly exciting young Japanese label designed by Shimase Takaaki, that’s gone its own way from June 2022.
Similarly, former Miyake designer Yusuke Takahashi went on to found CFCL, a progressive brand steeped in the textile experimentation of Miyake himsef. SSENSE approves.
Miyake’s death closes the door on a mind brimming with restless, boundless creativity but it doesn’t cap his impact on the fashion industry and world at large.
Not by a long shot. In fact, there’s still stuff being done under the Miyake banner that’s worth uncovering, stuff that epitomizes the effervescence of Miyake’s influence.
Indeed, Miyake’s ingenuity lives forever, both in the work he created over a brilliant career unmatched by anyone in his field and in the ongoing output of the brands that bear his name, each overseen by designers toiling to keep bring Miyake’s eternal mantle the same esteem garnered by the man himself.