Issey Miyake, the Groundbreaking Japanese Designer, Has Died at 84

“Clothing is the closest thing to all humans,” Miyake told the New York Times in an email in 2016, long after he had ceded day-to-day management of the design studio in 1999 while still having final oversight over all of its products. He added: “All design intersects, there are no boundaries between art, design, and other creative activities… All of my work stems from the simplest of ideas that go back to the earliest civilizations: making clothing from one piece of cloth. It is my touchstone.”

Miyake was born in Hiroshima in 1938. He was seven when the city was razed by a US-dropped atomic bomb; his mother died of radiation exposure three years later. He later recalled: “When I close my eyes, I still see things no one should ever experience: a bright red light, the black cloud soon after, people running in every direction trying desperately to escape—I remember it all.” He was later inspired, he said, by Hiroshima’s 1952-completed Peace Bridge designed by US-Japanese sculptor Isamu Noguchi to “think of things that can be created, not destroyed, and that bring beauty and joy.”

Although drawn to dance at an early age—and reputedly an avid reader of his sister’s fashion magazines—Miyake chose to study graphic design at the Tama Art University in Tokyo, where he focused on clothing as a form of design. After traveling to New York and Paris, where he apprenticed for Guy Laroche and Hubert de Givenchy, he founded his design studio in 1970 and was invited to appear on the first Paris ready-to-wear calendar in 1973. Miyake’s 1980s Body Series, a group of clothing pieces made from non-traditional materials more usually associated with sculpture, won him an unprecedented cover of Artforum magazine in 1982 and was accompanied by a run of avant-garde shows that look prescient today. 

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