The Illusionist


Issey Miyake is the most well-known Japanese designer in the world, having successfully merged East and West in his designs.

Issey Miyake was born in Hiroshima, Japan in 1939. He studied at the Tama Art University in Tokyo during which time he assembled his first fashion collection, which he named "The Poem of Material and Stone"

In 1964 he graduated from the University of Tokyo. In 1965 he moved to Paris to study design at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. In 1966 he left to work as an assistant designer at Guy Laroche. He also worked in the studio of another great couturier Hubert de Givenchy. However, he felt out of step with the posed formality of the haute couture approach to dressing which was all that Paris could offer to women at that time. However, revolution was in the air, and such designers as Courreges and Cardin were designing modern clothes.

In 1969 Issey Miyake left for New York. He worked as a designer for Geoffrey Beene, producing ready-to-wear clothes and enjoying the atmosphere of the city. He was also refining his ideas about dress and the function of fashion. Was the result, was his theory of peeling away to the limit, throwing away all the inhibiting ideas about dress and starting again from the beginning.

In 1970 Miyake returned to Tokyo to make his ideas concrete. At first, his clothes consisted of pieces of irregularly shaped fabric almost suspended around the body, each piece of which could be stripped away to reveal another part of the body. He quickly moved into layering and wrapping and his unparallelled feeling for texture, mass and volume became evident.

He himself attributes much of his thinking to the influence of Madame Madeleine Vionnet who in the 1920's attempted to take clothing back to the basic shapes dictated by the qualities of the fabric. She did not cut fabric and then stitch it, so that it fitted the body, she used the body as an underframe along the lines of which the fabric hung, draped and flowed effortlessly, naturally, assuming new shapes as the body moved.

This concept Issey Miyake developed in ways magical to watch on the runway, creating garments of what appeared to be dramatic simplicity itself, by which at the twist of a model's shoulder, suddenly became something else entirely, something equally simple, equally dramatic.

In 1971 he founded the Issey Miyake Design Studio in Tokyo.He also opened a boutique at Bloomingdales in New York.

During the 70's while still based in Tokyo, Miyake began to show his collections twice a year in Paris and they rapidly became fashion shows which no fashion addict could afford to miss.

In 1976 he presented 12 black girls from America, striking black Amazons showing his designs in Osaka which were seen by 15,000.people. In 1977 he mounted "Fly with Issey Miyake" in Tokyo which was seen by 22,000 people.

Throughout the 80's and the 90's Issey Miyake's designs have become more and more well-known. His is now a world-wide empire and his style is fantastically popular.

In 1995 several designers, joined in a project to illustrate characters from films. Issey Miyake has drawn POCOHONTAS the red Indian heroine of the Disney cartoon film.

Issey Miyake's designs in 1996, were based on traditional Japanese kimonos.


Miyake's skill with fabric is rooted in his knowledge of traditional Japanese fabrics and fabric-production techniques. The ascendancy of denim in the sixties and seventies turned his attention to Japanese workwear fabrics: ticking stripe, heavy cottons, quilting. These he incorporated into his work both in their original form and in wonderfully elaborated forms, waffle textures, heavy coarse weaves, rich seersucker effects, wrinkled, crinkled, primitive pleating and occasionally smocked.

Combined with Miyake's sophisticated colour sense, the effect of all this sensuous texture was completely fresh. Textured fabrics when employed by other designers, tended to be conventionally rich - velvet, plain, panne or printed, brocade, damask, corduroy or applique work, embroidery or lace, nubbled or hairy tweed. Even when used in fresh unexpected ways other designers cannot compete with the fabrics Miyake has developed, which respond well to being intricately cut, seamed, darted and fitted. This is consistent with his vision. He says " I like to work in the spirit of the Kimono, between the body and the fabric there exists only an approximate contact."

He does not use the kimono itself as many Western designers do, to add a touch of exoticism. He merely borrows its attributes of ease,

adaptability and respect for the fabric and the patterns and shapes in space with it can create when the body moves.

If he sounds serious about his design philosophy, we he is. But he also has a rich sense of humour which contributes substantially to his famous charm. He loves to make extravagant statements when he sends his models down the runway in shiny fibreglass breastplates, or perky nipples or polished wickerwork torso cages shaped like Samurai armour.

His use of wrapping and tying techniques for the fastening of his clothes is also based on Japanese tradition. The kimono has no closure and it closed by tying the obi around the waist.

He makes clothes like 18th century Buddhist priests, where patchwork rectangles were meant to suggest the humility of tatters, although they were actually stitched from the finest of antique brocades. Miyake refines and passes on the inherently Japanese vision. His loose, even formless clothes mock the perfect-toned "me decade" body, he makes fashion retrospective.

Naoki Takizawa

In 2000, after 30 years at the forefront of design, Issey Miyake announced that he would be handing over the reins of ready-to-wear to his right-hand man Naoki Takizawa (born 1960) who has been with him since 1989. He studied in Japan at the Kuwasawa Design School. He is shown here on the right.

For Spring 2000 Takizawa gave the Miyake main line new direction, with cropped jackets and fitted shift dresses in simple pared-down silhouettes and fluid shapes.

Spring/Summer 2003

Naoki Takizawa presented the Issey Miyake Spring/Summer 2003 collection during Paris Fashion Week in October 2002 which was very well received. This is an outfit from that collection.

Fall/Winter 2003

Naoki Takizawa presented the Miyake ready-to-wear Fall collection during Paris Fashion Week in March 2003. An outfit from that collection is shown on the right.

He used ruching, shirring, twisting, layering and buttons to create a very original and artsy collection. With careful placement the female form was emphasized - the waist, shoulder or breasts. The collection was utterly light and feminine.

The future

Issey Miyake is not hanging up his scissors yet though. He says "I want to go back to basics". He will focus on the A-POC range pushing the concept that real clothes can be made from a single piece of cloth. His A-POC shop opened in Spring 2000 in London.

Now, recently, he has opened a huge futuristic new store in Tokyo, Japan, in the same building wherein he had founded his company in 1971.

Spring/Summer 2004

During Paris Fashion Week in October 2003, Naoki Takizawa showed the Issey Miyake collection for next Spring. An outfit from this collection is shown on the left.

He showed some unusual touches, the coin dot patterns in different dimension, the pants laced up the legs and metallic blue shimmering through blocks of orange and green. The models peeled off sporty all-in-one outer garments to reveal tattooed bodysuits beneath.

Fall/Winter 2004 ready-to-wear

Naoki Takizawa presented his Issey Miyake Fall collection in Paris during Fashion Week in March 2004. A dress from the show is on the right. It was a very artistic yet functional and chic collection divided into three distinct parts, as the designer told us the story of how man will conquer the moon. First was "on earth" with flowing dresses made of natural fibres, comprising hip-hugging skirts flared above the thigh. The second was "colonization of the moon" with models in dark visors and long coats, and the third part was when people were living on the moon. Moon fashion had silver pants with crocheted sweaters, flowing asymmetrical skirts and one-piece maxi dresses with original Aya Takano artwork. It was a highly creative and imaginative show.

Spring/Summer 2005

During Paris Fashion Week in October 2004, Naoki Takizawa showed his Issey Miyake collection for next Spring. A dress from this collection is shown on the left.

He painted scorched pattern or blood stained print onto his garments this season, and painted eyes or hair dangling from brims of hats. The effect was very surreal. Some of his softer clothes had cabbage roses on the bodice, and dresses with drapes and tucks which had a much more feminine look.

Autumn/Winter 2005

Takizawa's Miyake Autumn/Winter collection was shown during Paris Fashion Week in March 2005. He is a very romantic designer, and created a fine collection. Each outfit was shown with it's double, a white one, then a black one. The outfits alternated with or without embellishments or embroidery. One dress had knitted collars hung like a necklace, while the follow-up had a single collar. He was driven to trace the cultural history of Japan. Naoki is a young designer with great visition and interest in handicrafts. His creations maintained the fine reputation of the house of Issey Miyake.

Spring/Summer 2006
Paris Fashion Week

Naoki Takizawa presented his Spring/Summer 2006 ready-to-wear collection during Paris Fashion Week in October 2005. He called his collection "Bamboo Singing" and the theme was taken up with clothes showing the depth of Japanese culture. Here on the left is the designer, with his models behind a bamboo screne set up for the show.

On the right, from the collection, is a transparent dress made from bamboo-like fibres, fitted on a frame rather like a Victorian crinoline. He used cut-off kimono effect with butterfly wing sleeves and some dresses had Obi sashes circling the waist. A bamboo print was used on reed green and lagoon blue dresses, giving a feeling of the Orient.

It was a poetic and beautiful collection.


1992 L'Eau de Issey (W)
1994 L'Eau de Issey pour homme
1995 Sun Mist (W)
1998 Le Feu d'Issey (W)
2000 Le Feu d'Issey Light (W)
2000 L'Eau d'Issey d'Ete Relaxante (W)
2001 Soleil d'Issey (W)
2001 Lune d'Issey (W)
2002 Air and Light(W)
2002 Lumiere d'Issey (M)
2002 Soothing Night (W)
2002 L'Eau d'Issey d'Ete (W)
2003 L'Eau d'Issey Souffle (W)
2003 L'Eau d'Issey Souffle (M)
2004 L'Eau Bleue d'Issey (M)

His product lines:

Issey Myake produces his own name range,

Issey Sport, somewhat cheaper sports clothes,

Plantation, a pared down, jokey, youthful range.

Beauty products such as L'Eau de Issey After- sun oil.

Pleats Please, his line of pleated gowns.

A-POC line

click below:

Issey Miyake (Universe of Fashion) by Laurence Benaim

Issey Miyake: Making Things by Issey Miyake

Issey Miyake (Big Series): Architecture and Design by Mark Holborn

Irving Penn regards the work of Issey Miyake
by Issey Miyake and Irving Penn