Dear Shaded Viewers,
If you happen to be in Tokyo, a long stroll is recommended through "The Work of Issey Miyake" exhibition that opened on March 16th in the National Art Center, on the same day that Jack Lang made the man of the hour a Commander of the Legion of Honor, for a never-seen-before look into 45 years of work from the designer who challenged what could be done with a single piece of cloth.
Alternatively, should you not be able to make it to the Japanese capital before the exhibition closes on June 13th, there is always the beautiful new Taschen tome edited by Midori Kitamura and who explores the same span of time and imagination. Highlighted through both is not just the garments that have been produced but rather the processes, textures and evolutions that gave birth to them.
A retrospective? Describing it as such feels disrespectful to the designer who spent the last five decades looking forward, rather than back. Yet the need to understand and hopefully for a lucky few, harness similar processes, remains a necessity in order to inch forward in the field of fashion and more widely, textile design. Not that he views garment design as a rarefied field outside of Design as attests the letter he wrote to the chairman of the 1960 World Design Conference, when he noticed clothing was not part of the program.
Issey Miyake is not a designer of ephemeral trends and of “fashion”, he is one who seeks to engineer garments efficiently and imbue them with properties that will enable them to fulfill their destiny as body covers beyond the moment. Looking at his work through the dual prism of the exhibition and book, it is clear that much of what he created, regardless of its fixed point in time, still feels as novel as when it was first shown, still as alien as when it was first seen. Embodied in every piece is a spirit of adventure in design that prevails to this day and gets its best echo in the works of the incumbent designers of the Issey Miyake brand. The cover page of the fall 2016 show notes made this perfectly clear. "The traveler who sets out into the immeasurable world Making Things ventures into unexplored galaxies in search of new stars. BEYOND – to pursue as yet unseen and unknown beauty created from A Piece of Cloth."
When in 1973, he moved his presentation from New York to Paris and the Paris scene discovered his work, at the Cr