The sad passing of the Japanese designer Issey Miyake has left not only celebrity fans in mourning but the mundane many who wore his practical seasonless pieces in their daily lives. Though his Bao Bao bags and L’eau D’Issey fragrances are undeniably iconic, Issey Miyake’s innovative “garment pleating” certainly made the greatest impact on the fashion industry. This functional fabric technique surprised everyone when it first debuted on dancing models in the 1980s as it proved that clothing could be fun, freeing, and above all, inclusive. To celebrate his 52-year-long career, GIULIO looks back on five moments that best showcase Issey Miyake’s pioneering pleats. 


The Costumes for William Forsythe’s Ballets 

He may have built a legacy designing clothes, but Issey Miyake grew up with dreams of becoming a dancer himself, so when William Forsythe asked him to craft the costumes for his ballet ‘The Loss of Small Detail’ in 1991, Miyake leapt at the chance. The designer spent time researching how dancers moved and found that his pleated polyester with its lightweight, crease-proof and flexible properties was the ideal fabric from which to craft his costumes. The success of this show not only led to a second commission from Forsythe for his ‘Garden in the Setting’ ballet the following year, but it also helped Issey Miyake to develop the prototype that would soon become his ‘PLEATS PLEASE’ line. 


The Olympic Uniforms for Lithuania 

1992 was an important year for the small country of Lithuania as it was the first time they took part in the Olympics since declaring independence ahead of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Perhaps after seeing his work in Forsythe’s Ballets, the Olympic team tasked Issey Miyake with designing their uniforms and the results were nothing short of historic. Pleated tracksuits carrying Lithuanian flags paraded through Barcelona’s opening ceremony and gave the Lithuanian athletes that wore them both comfort and confidence for their upcoming sporting events. 


Demonstrative Runway Displays 

His “garment pleating” may be visually appealing, but its practicality was always most important to Issey Miyake and he used his runway shows throughout the 80s and 90s to demonstrate this. The Japanese designer sent models and dancers down his catwalks with choreography to show how unrestrictive and transformative his pleated pieces were, stripping away fashion weeks’ formalities in favour of freedom. There are many performative moments in Miyake’s early shows but these two clips are a great place to start. 


The Photographs of Irving Penn  

An editorial shoot for the pages of American Vogue led to the unexpected friendship between Issey Miyake and the highly acclaimed photographer Irving Penn and from 1987 to 1999, the pair transformed pleats into works of art. It may surprise many to know that Miyake never actually attended Penn’s photoshoots and preferred to give the photographer complete creative freedom when capturing his pleats on camera. This trust paid off and resulted in almost 250 pleat-filled pictures that still excite even the earliest of Issey Miyake fans. 


The Manus x Machina Exhibition 

Technology’s role in fashion design was finally recognised in 2016 with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition titled ‘Manus x Machina’. Translating to ‘hand’ and ‘machine’, this theme not only encompassed garment production but also celebrated designers like Rei Kawakubo and of course, Issey Miyake. The opening of this exhibition followed the themed Met Gala which brought all our favourite stars out in tech-driven designs including plenty of pleated pieces. These may not have been Issey Miyake’s own whose works stayed within gallery walls, but it was clear from the dresses worn by Gigi Hadid and Solange Knowles that he has inspired the next generation of designers to try their hand at pleating. 


“I feel that I have finally become a designer” were the words of Issey Miyake after inventing his revolutionary pleating technique and with the brands ‘PLEATS PLEASE’ and ‘HOMME PLISSÉ’, everyday staples in his pressed polyester will continue to be worn for years to come. If your wardrobe is calling for the luxurious practicality Miyake’s pleats offer, GIULIO has a great selection for you to shop online and in store.