TOKYO — Issey Miyake, the Japanese designer famous for his pleated clothing style and cult fragrances, and whose name became a global synonym for avant-garde fashion in the 1980s, died Friday in Tokyo. He was 84 years old.
The death was announced Tuesday by the Miyake Design Studio, which said the cause was liver cancer.
Mr. Miyake is perhaps best known for his micro pleats, which he first unveiled in 1988 but has recently seen a resurgence in popularity with a new, younger consumer base.
His proprietary heat treatment system meant that the accordion pleats of his designs could be machine washed, would never lose their shape and offered the ease of loungewear. He also produced the black turtleneck that became part of the signature look of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
Her Bao Bao bag, made from mesh fabric layered with small, colorful triangles of polyvinyl, has long been a go-to accessory for the creative industries.
Released in 1993, Pleats Please, a clothing line featuring cascades of razor-sharp pleats, became her most recognizable look.
Mr Miyake’s designs have appeared everywhere, from factory floors – he designed a uniform for workers at Japanese electronics giant Sony – to dance floors. His insistence that clothing was a form of design was considered avant-garde in the early years of his career, and he had notable collaborations with photographers and architects. His designs found their way onto the 1982 cover of Artforum – unheard of for a fashion designer at the time – and into the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Mr. Miyake was honored in Japan for creating a global brand that contributed to the country’s efforts to become an international destination for fashion and pop culture. In 2010, he received the Order of Culture, the highest artistic honor in the country.
Kazunaru Miyake was born on April 22, 1938. He limped heavily after surviving the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, his hometown, on August 6, 1945. His mother died three years later of radiation poisoning.
Mr. Miyake rarely discussed that day – or other aspects of his personal history – “preferring to think of things that can be created, not destroyed, and which bring beauty and joy”, he wrote in a 2009 opinion piece in The New York Times. .
He graduated in 1963 from Tama Art University in Tokyo, where he majored in design. After studying in Paris during the student protests of 1968, and a stint in New York, he founded the Miyake Design Studio in 1970. He was one of the first Japanese designers to parade in Paris and was part of a revolutionary wave of designers who brought Japanese fashion to the rest of the world, opening the door to later contemporaries like Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo.
He has often stressed that he does not consider himself “a fashion designer“.
“Everything that is “in fashion” goes out of style too quickly. I don’t do fashion. I make clothes,” Mr. Miyake told Parisvoice magazine in 1998.
“What I wanted to do weren’t just clothes for people with money. It was things like jeans and t-shirts, things that were familiar to a lot of people, easy to wash and easy to use,” he told Japanese daily The Yomiuri Shimbun in a 2015 interview. .
Yet he was perhaps best known as a designer whose styles combined the discipline of fashion with technology and artistry. His animating idea was that clothes should be made from a single piece of fabric, and he pursued designs – such as his famous pleats – that incorporated new techniques and fabrics to accomplish this ambition.
There was no immediate information detailing Mr. Miyake’s survivors. A notoriously private person, the designer was known for his close relationships with longtime colleagues and collaborators, which he credited as essential to his success. He was most closely associated with Midori Kitamura, who started as a fit model in his studio, worked with him for almost 50 years and is now president of his design studio.
Throughout his life, “he never shied away from his love, the process of making things,” Mr Miyake’s office said in a statement.
“I’m mostly interested in people and the human form,” Mr. Miyake told The Times in 2014. “Clothes are the closest thing to all humans.”
Hikari Hida contributed reporting from Tokyo.