Art-à-Porter: Issey Miyake, the engineer of fashion design

Few designers have incorporated technology in their work like Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake, especially famous for his “Pleats Please” line and his “BaoBao” geometric bags. He is a firm believer in the importance of art and museums as inexhaustible sources of inspiration for the fashion industry. Although he ‘retired’ from design in 1997, he still oversees the creative direction of every line in his name, collaborating closely with Dai Fujiwara and now Yoshiyuki Miyamae on all of his clothing lines. Throughout the years, Miyake has shown incredible versatility in his field in terms of his ability to reconcile tradition and innovation on the catwalk.

One of the most iconic instances in which art and technology intertwined on Miyake’s runway was for his Spring-Summer 1995 show. The show opened with pieces that were closer to the modes of dressmaking of the time, as the models wore long gowns with a very ’90s color palette. Later during the show, however, the Japanese house sent down the catwalk plissé yellow and green dresses almost resembling paper lanterns, which could effectively be folded flat.

The 1995 show also featured a music ensemble playing live eighth century traditional Japanese music. During the finale, the models started bobbing gently so as to make their dresses bounce up and down, creating a beautiful and almost infantile display of happiness. The groundbreaking technologies Miyake and Fujiwara employed when making these dresses allowed his fashion show to become a piece of performance art, which relied on the intermingling of music, dance and sculpture-like dresses to celebrate beauty and naivety.

Another stunning demonstration of trailblazing technologies in dressmaking that allowed Miyake and Fujiwara to create works of art on the runway took place during his Fall-Winter 2011 fashion show. This show was a celebration of minimalism in every aspect, including the way the lights led onto an empty, blank runway. The musical accompaniment was also one of the simplest ever, since it was solely made up of nursery songs on piano. While the music played in the background, the designers’ assistants walked onto the runway and started folding long sheets of white paper, which were eventually transformed into origami pieces of clothing. The assistants proceeded to clad the models in these five works of art that were used as a dress, a skirt, a collar, a tailcoat and a peplum jacket. Immediately after, five more models graced the catwalk wearing pieces that were inspired by the previous origami garments but were made out of actual textiles.

Issey Miyake as a fashion house has therefore always been at the forefront of innovation in the industry, using pioneering technologies to produce and send effective works of art down the runway. It is also important to observe that Fujiwara continued Miyake’s legacy when designing for the brand, as they shared the same design philosophy.