Prince of Pleats: Issey Miyake’s Most Memorable Designs
Hong Kong/Fashionista/Fashion

The Prince of Pleats: Issey Miyake’s Most Memorable Contributions to Fashion

20220812 The Prince of Pleats Issey Miyakes Most Memorable Contributions to Fashion header Photo by Facebook/Issey Miyake USA

A visionary in fashion for his inventive fabric treatment techniques, and an international legend for bringing Japanese sensibilities to the French fashion scene, Japanese designer Issey Miyake has sadly passed away from liver cancer at the age of 84 on Aug. 5.

The Hiroshima native led a many-splendored life, working alongside names like Guy Laroche and Hubert de Givenchy, and dressing up prominent cultural figures like Grace Jones, Zaha Hadid, and even Robin Williams. In homage to his philosophy of design as “not for philosophy” but “for life,” these are the most memorable pieces and collections from his decades-long career.


1. Pleats, Please

Perhaps the most recognisable tell that lets on a garment was designed by Miyake is his patented style of micro-pleating. Conceived in the 1980s, this technological feat treats fabrics using heat to create textured folds that hold up unique and origami-esque shapes in his apparel, which still retain their special forms even after being washed and dried. Highly popular due to being lightweight and comfortable, Miyake’s treated fabrics were transformed into his Pleats, Please line, which continues to release new series and remains just as trendy to this day.

2. The LBT

Wikipedia Commons/Tom Coates

A pioneer in his own right, late tech-founder Steve Jobs was a standout devotee to Miyake’s designs. Rarely seen in anything other than the uniform that features a black mock turtleneck, it was in fact Issey Miyake who was behind this simplistic yet deeply culturally impactful signifier that’s since been cemented into Jobs’ public persona. As mentioned in Walter Isaacson’s biography, Jobs was so thoroughly impressed by the ease of maintaining the same outfit everyday that he commissioned Miyake to produce 100 turtlenecks to last the rest of his life.

3. F/W 1980 Bustier

As if ripped straight from the closet of Jessica Rabbit, this scarlet plastic bodice from the 1980-1981 fall and winter collection was a crowning jewel from Miyake’s “Bodyworks” era. The seminal exhibition of the same name toured across the globe between 1983 and 1985, showcasing moulded pieces which utilise unconventional materials that have been custom-tailored to highlight the intricate details of female anatomy.

The piece also spawned other variations and derivative versions, including the turquoise and black editions popularised by Grace Jones. A frequent fan of Miyake’s, and one who credits him for her eminence in the world of fashion, she was always seen decked out in the designer’s most bold designs, showing the crossover of Miyake’s influence into the realms of pop culture.

4. L’Eau d’Issey

Joining hands with Japanese cosmetics brand Shiseido, Miyake had his first foray into fragrances in 1992 with the debut of L’Eau d’Issey. Its name literally translating to “the water of Issey” from French, the perfume takes its olfactory cues from the element of water itself, resulting in a fresh and delicate scent. Presented in a sleek, streamlined bottle with silver accents, the design paralleled scenes from Issey’s own memories of moonlight streaming through the Eiffel Tower, infusing the project with personal significance.

5. A Piece of Cloth

Born out of the late ‘90s as a collaboration between Issey Miyake and Fujiwara Dai, the A-POC (A Piece of Cloth) series balances wearability with customisability through experimental manufacturing that plays with industrial techniques and haute-couture tailoring. Garments are created using one long tube of jersey that goes through a weaving machine, with the hems and seams sewn in directly in a repeating pattern.

This novel production process allows various pieces of clothing to be cut -out directly from a piece of fabric rather than pieced together in a sum of parts, which means that designers and clients can have greater flexibility in shapes and sizing. What’s more, this form of sewing also created a lot less fabric excess, reducing waste. Embodying Miyake’s keen eye for striking and fluid designs, his tech-forward craftsmanship, and his emphasis on wearability for all.

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